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Genetics. 1992 Jan;130(1):105-23.

Genetic analysis of chemosensory control of dauer formation in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


Dauer larva formation in Caenorhabditis elegans is controlled by chemosensory cells that respond to environmental cues. Genetic interactions among mutations in 23 genes that affect dauer larva formation were investigated. Mutations in seven genes that cause constitutive dauer formation, and mutations in 16 genes that either block dauer formation or result in the formation of abnormal dauers, were analyzed. Double mutants between dauer-constitutive and dauer-defective mutations were constructed and characterized for their capacity to form dauer larvae. Many of the genes could be interpreted to lie in a simple linear epistasis pathway. Three genes, daf-16, daf-18 and daf-20, may affect downstream steps in a branched part of the pathway. Three other genes, daf-2, daf-3 and daf-5, displayed partial or complex epistasis interactions that were difficult to interpret as part of a simple linear pathway. Dauer-defective mutations in nine genes cause structurally defective chemosensory cilia, thereby blocking chemosensation. Mutations in all nine of these genes appear to fall at a single step in the epistasis pathway. Dauer-constitutive mutations in one gene, daf-11, were strongly suppressed for dauer formation by mutations in the nine cilium-structure genes. Mutations in the other six dauer-constitutive genes caused dauer formation despite the absence of functional chemosensory endings. These results suggest that daf-11 is directly involved in chemosensory transduction essential for dauer formation, while the other Daf-c genes play roles downstream of the chemosensory step.

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