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Open Biol. 2017 Mar;7(3). pii: 160313. doi: 10.1098/rsob.160313.

Neuronal function of the mRNA decapping complex determines survival of Caenorhabditis elegans at high temperature through temporal regulation of heterochronic gene expression.

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Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, Center of Basic Research, Athens 11527, Greece.
Faculty of Biology, School of Science, University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
School of Medicine, University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, Center of Basic Research, Athens 11527, Greece


In response to adverse environmental cues, Caenorhabditis elegans larvae can temporarily arrest development at the second moult and form dauers, a diapause stage that allows for long-term survival. This process is largely regulated by certain evolutionarily conserved signal transduction pathways, but it is also affected by miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional control of gene expression. The 5'-3' mRNA decay mechanism contributes to miRNA-mediated silencing of target mRNAs in many organisms but how it affects developmental decisions during normal or stress conditions is largely unknown. Here, we show that loss of the mRNA decapping complex activity acting in the 5'-3' mRNA decay pathway inhibits dauer formation at the stressful high temperature of 27.5°C, and instead promotes early developmental arrest. Our genetic data suggest that this arrest phenotype correlates with dysregulation of heterochronic gene expression and an aberrant stabilization of lin-14 mRNA at early larval stages. Restoration of neuronal dcap-1 activity was sufficient to rescue growth phenotypes of dcap-1 mutants at both high and normal temperatures, implying the involvement of common developmental timing mechanisms. Our work unveils the crucial role of 5'-3' mRNA degradation in proper regulation of heterochronic gene expression programmes, which proved to be essential for survival under stressful conditions.


Caenorhabditis elegans; dcap-1; developmental arrest; lin-14; stress

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