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PLoS Biol. 2005 Oct;3(10):e312. Epub 2005 Aug 30.

Functional genomic analysis of C. elegans molting.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Although the molting cycle is a hallmark of insects and nematodes, neither the endocrine control of molting via size, stage, and nutritional inputs nor the enzymatic mechanism for synthesis and release of the exoskeleton is well understood. Here, we identify endocrine and enzymatic regulators of molting in C. elegans through a genome-wide RNA-interference screen. Products of the 159 genes discovered include annotated transcription factors, secreted peptides, transmembrane proteins, and extracellular matrix enzymes essential for molting. Fusions between several genes and green fluorescent protein show a pulse of expression before each molt in epithelial cells that synthesize the exoskeleton, indicating that the corresponding proteins are made in the correct time and place to regulate molting. We show further that inactivation of particular genes abrogates expression of the green fluorescent protein reporter genes, revealing regulatory networks that might couple the expression of genes essential for molting to endocrine cues. Many molting genes are conserved in parasitic nematodes responsible for human disease, and thus represent attractive targets for pesticide and pharmaceutical development.

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