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Development. 1998 Apr;125(8):1561-8.

unc-3, a gene required for axonal guidance in Caenorhabditis elegans, encodes a member of the O/E family of transcription factors.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The expression of specialized signal transduction components in mammalian olfactory neurons is thought to be regulated by the O/E (Olf-1/EBF) family of transcription factors. The O/E proteins are expressed in cells of the olfactory neuronal lineage throughout development and are also expressed transiently in neurons in the developing nervous system during embryogenesis. We have identified a C. elegans homologue of the mammalian O/E proteins, which displays greater than 80% similarity over 350 amino acids. Like its mammalian homologues, CeO/E is expressed in certain chemosensory neurons (ASI amphid neurons) throughout development and is also expressed transiently in developing motor neurons when these cells undergo axonal outgrowth. We demonstrate that CeO/E is the product of the unc-3 gene, mutations in which cause defects in the axonal outgrowth of motor neurons, as well as defects in dauer formation, a process requiring chemosensory inputs. These observations suggest that the O/E family of transcription factors play a central and evolutionarily conserved role in the expression of proteins essential for axonal pathfinding and/or neuronal differentiation in both sensory and motor neurons.

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