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Genetics. 1989 Sep;123(1):109-21.

The multivulva phenotype of certain Caenorhabditis elegans mutants results from defects in two functionally redundant pathways.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139.


We previously identified Caenorhabditis elegans mutants in which certain of the six vulval precursor cells adopt fates normally expressed by other vulval precursor cells. These mutants define genes that appear to function in the response to an intercellular signal that induces vulval development. The multivulva (Muv) phenotype of one such mutant, CB1322, results from an interaction between two unlinked mutations, lin-8(n111) II and lin-9(n112) III. In this paper, we identify 18 new mutations, which are alleles of eight genes, that interact with either lin-8(n111) or lin-9(n112) to generate a Muv phenotype. None of these 20 mutations alone causes any vulval cell lineage defects. The "silent Muv" mutations fall into two classes; hermaphrodites carrying a mutation of each class are Muv, while hermaphrodites carrying two mutations of the same class have a wild-type vulval phenotype. Our results indicate that the Muv phenotype of these mutants results from defects in two functionally-redundant pathways, thereby demonstrating that redundancy can occur at the level of gene pathways as well as at the level of gene families.

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