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Genetics. 2005 Oct;171(2):545-55. Epub 2005 Jul 5.

Reevaluation of the role of the med-1 and med-2 genes in specifying the Caenorhabditis elegans endoderm.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Genes and Development Research Group, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The med-1 and med-2 genes encode a pair of essentially identical GATA factor-related transcription factors that have been proposed to be necessary for specification of the C. elegans endoderm (intestine or E lineage) as well as part of the C. elegans mesoderm. med-1 and med-2 are proposed to be the direct downstream targets and the principal effectors of the maternally provided SKN-1 transcription factor; med-1 and med-2 would thus occupy the pivotal interface between maternal and zygotic control of gene expression. The conclusion that med-1 and med-2 are necessary for C. elegans endoderm specification was based on a partially penetrant (approximately 50%) loss of endoderm markers produced by RNA-mediated interference (RNAi). To determine whether this partial penetrance reflects: (i) inefficient RNAi against early zygotic transcripts, (ii) experimental uncertainty in the expected level of endoderm loss in skn-1 nulls, or (iii) additional redundancy in the pathway of endoderm specification, we constructed worm strains that segregate embryos lacking both the med-1 gene (because of a gene-specific deletion) and the med-2 gene (using either of two chromosomal deficiencies). Contrary to expectations, we observe that only approximately 3-20% of med-2(-); med-1(-) embryos do not express markers of endoderm differentiation. Furthermore, we found no evidence for a maternal contribution of the med genes to endoderm specification. We conclude that the major pathway(s) for endoderm specification in C. elegans must be independent of the med-1 and med-2 genes.

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