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Development. 1992 Oct;116(2):481-90.

Expression of the homeotic gene mab-5 during Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0554.


mab-5 is a member of a complex of homeobox-containing genes evolutionarily related to the Antennapedia and bithorax complexes of Drosophila melanogaster. Like the homeotic genes in Drosophila, mab-5 is required in a particular region along the anterior-posterior body axis, and acts during postembryonic development to give cells in this region their characteristic identities. We have used a mab-5-lacZ fusion integrated into the C. elegans genome to study the posterior-specific expression of mab-5 during embryogenesis. The mab-5-lacZ fusion was expressed in the posterior of the embryo by 180 minutes after the first cleavage, indicating that the mechanisms responsible for the position-specific expression of mab-5-lacZ act at a relatively early stage of embryogenesis. In embryos homozygous for mutations in the par genes, which disrupt segregation of factors during early cleavages, expression of mab-5-lacZ was no longer localized to the posterior. This suggests that posterior-specific expression of mab-5 depends on the appropriate segregation of developmental factors during early embryogenesis. After extrusion of any blastomere of the four-cell embryo, descendants of the remaining three cells could still express the mab-5-lacZ fusion. In these partial embryos, however, the fusion was often expressed in cells scattered throughout the embryo, suggesting that cell-cell interactions and/or proper positioning of early blastomeres are required for mab-5 expression to be localized to the posterior.

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