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Genetics. 2007 Dec;177(4):2039-62.

Multiple functions and dynamic activation of MPK-1 extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans germline development.

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Department of Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The raison d'etre of the germline is to produce oocytes and sperm that pass genetic material and cytoplasmic constituents to the next generation. To achieve this goal, many developmental processes must be executed and coordinated. ERK, the terminal MAP kinase of a number of signaling pathways, controls many aspects of development. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of MPK-1 ERK in Caenorhabditis elegans germline development. MPK-1 functions in four developmental switches: progression through pachytene, oocyte meiotic maturation/ovulation, male germ cell fate specification, and a nonessential function of promoting the proliferative fate. MPK-1 also regulates multiple aspects of cell biology during oogenesis, including membrane organization and morphogenesis: organization of pachytene cells on the surface of the gonadal tube, oocyte organization and differentiation, oocyte growth control, and oocyte nuclear migration. MPK-1 activation is temporally/spatially dynamic and most processes appear to be controlled through sustained activation. MPK-1 thus may act not only in the control of individual processes but also in the coordination of contemporaneous processes and the integration of sequential processes. Knowledge of the dynamic activation and diverse functions of MPK-1 provides the foundation for identification of upstream signaling cascades responsible for region-specific activation and the downstream substrates that mediate the various processes.

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