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PLoS Genet. 2007 Mar 2;3(3):e34. Epub 2007 Jan 9.

A Caenorhabditis elegans wild type defies the temperature-size rule owing to a single nucleotide polymorphism in tra-3.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Nematology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Jan.Kammenga@wur.nl

Abstract

Ectotherms rely for their body heat on surrounding temperatures. A key question in biology is why most ectotherms mature at a larger size at lower temperatures, a phenomenon known as the temperature-size rule. Since temperature affects virtually all processes in a living organism, current theories to explain this phenomenon are diverse and complex and assert often from opposing assumptions. Although widely studied, the molecular genetic control of the temperature-size rule is unknown. We found that the Caenorhabditis elegans wild-type N2 complied with the temperature-size rule, whereas wild-type CB4856 defied it. Using a candidate gene approach based on an N2 x CB4856 recombinant inbred panel in combination with mutant analysis, complementation, and transgenic studies, we show that a single nucleotide polymorphism in tra-3 leads to mutation F96L in the encoded calpain-like protease. This mutation attenuates the ability of CB4856 to grow larger at low temperature. Homology modelling predicts that F96L reduces TRA-3 activity by destabilizing the DII-A domain. The data show that size adaptation of ectotherms to temperature changes may be less complex than previously thought because a subtle wild-type polymorphism modulates the temperature responsiveness of body size. These findings provide a novel step toward the molecular understanding of the temperature-size rule, which has puzzled biologists for decades.

PMID:
17335351
PMCID:
PMC1808073
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.0030034
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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