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PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(3):e1002591. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002591. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

C. elegans germ cells show temperature and age-dependent expression of Cer1, a Gypsy/Ty3-related retrotransposon.

Author information

1
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.

Abstract

Virus-like particles (VLPs) have not been observed in Caenorhabditis germ cells, although nematode genomes contain low numbers of retrotransposon and retroviral sequences. We used electron microscopy to search for VLPs in various wild strains of Caenorhabditis, and observed very rare candidate VLPs in some strains, including the standard laboratory strain of C. elegans, N2. We identified the N2 VLPs as capsids produced by Cer1, a retrotransposon in the Gypsy/Ty3 family of retroviruses/retrotransposons. Cer1 expression is age and temperature dependent, with abundant expression at 15°C and no detectable expression at 25°C, explaining how VLPs escaped detection in previous studies. Similar age and temperature-dependent expression of Cer1 retrotransposons was observed for several other wild strains, indicating that these properties are common, if not integral, features of this retroelement. Retrotransposons, in contrast to DNA transposons, have a cytoplasmic stage in replication, and those that infect non-dividing cells must pass their genomic material through nuclear pores. In most C. elegans germ cells, nuclear pores are largely covered by germline-specific organelles called P granules. Our results suggest that Cer1 capsids target meiotic germ cells exiting pachytene, when free nuclear pores are added to the nuclear envelope and existing P granules begin to be removed. In pachytene germ cells, Cer1 capsids concentrate away from nuclei on a subset of microtubules that are exceptionally resistant to microtubule inhibitors; the capsids can aggregate these stable microtubules in older adults, which exhibit a temperature-dependent decrease in egg viability. When germ cells exit pachytene, the stable microtubules disappear and capsids redistribute close to nuclei that have P granule-free nuclear pores. This redistribution is microtubule dependent, suggesting that capsids that are released from stable microtubules transfer onto new, dynamic microtubules to track toward nuclei. These studies introduce C. elegans as a model to study the interplay between retroelements and germ cell biology.

PMID:
22479180
PMCID:
PMC3315495
DOI:
10.1371/journal.ppat.1002591
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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