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Genetics. 1991 Dec;129(4):1061-72.

Identification of grandchildless loci whose products are required for normal germ-line development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405.


To identify genes that encode maternal components required for development of the germ line in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, we have screened for mutations that confer a maternal-effect sterile or "grandchildless" phenotype: homozygous mutant hermaphrodites produced by heterozygous mothers are themselves fertile, but produce sterile progeny. Our screens have identified six loci, defined by 21 mutations. This paper presents genetic and phenotypic characterization of four of the loci. The majority of mutations, those in mes-2, mes-3 and mes-4, affect postembryonic germ-line development; the progeny of mutant mothers undergo apparently normal embryogenesis but develop into agametic adults with 10-1000-fold reductions in number of germ cells. In contrast, mutations in mes-1 cause defects in cytoplasmic partitioning during embryogenesis, and the resulting larvae lack germ-line progenitor cells. Mutations in all of the mes loci primarily affect the germ line, and none disrupt the structural integrity of germ granules. This is in contrast to grandchildless mutations in Drosophila melanogaster, all of which disrupt germ granules and affect abdominal as well as germ-line development.

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