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J Cell Sci. 1997 May;110 ( Pt 9):1073-81.

A nematode gene required for sperm vesicle fusion.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, The University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.


During maturation of spermatids to motile spermatozoa in Caenorhabditis elegans, large vesicles called membranous organelles (MOs) fuse with the spermatid plasma membrane. Mutations in the gene fer-1 cause abnormal spermatozoa in which the MOs do not fuse, although they abut the plasma membrane normally. Here we describe the fer-1 gene, which we found to be approximately 8.6 kb in length and to encode a 6.2 kb transcript whose expression is limited to the primary spermatocytes, the cells in which the MOs form. fer-1 is predicted to encode a 235 kDa protein which is highly charged except for a putative transmembrane domain near the C terminus. We identified the mutations associated with five fer-1 alleles, all of which are missense mutations causing single amino acid changes. FER-1 is not similar to any characterized proteins in sequence databases, nor does it contain known functional motifs other than the predicted transmembrane domain. The C-terminal transmembrane domain makes FER-1 resemble some viral fusion proteins, suggesting it may play a direct role in MO-plasma membrane fusion. FER-1 does show significant sequence similarity to several predicted human proteins of unknown function. Two of the identified fer-1 mutations are located in regions of similarity between FER-1 and two of these predicted proteins. This strengthens the biological significance of these similarities and suggests these regions of similarity represent functionally important domains of FER-1 and the human proteins.

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