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Genetics. 1995 Feb;139(2):549-59.

Control of cleavage spindle orientation in Caenorhabditis elegans: the role of the genes par-2 and par-3.

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Section of Genetics and Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Polarized asymmetric divisions play important roles in the development of plants and animals. The first two embryonic cleavages of Caenorhabditis elegans provide an opportunity to study the mechanisms controlling polarized asymmetric divisions. The first cleavage is unequal, producing daughters with different sizes and fates. The daughter blastomeres divide with different orientations at the second cleavage; the anterior blastomere divides equally across the long axis of the egg, whereas the posterior blastomere divides unequally along the long axis. We report here the results of our analysis of the genes par-2 and par-3 with respect to their contribution to the polarity of these divisions. Strong loss-of-function mutations in both genes lead to an equal first cleavage and an altered second cleavage. Interestingly, the mutations exhibit striking gene-specific differences at the second cleavage. The par-2 mutations lead to transverse spindle orientations in both blastomeres, whereas par-3 mutations lead to longitudinal spindle orientations in both blastomeres. The spindle orientation defects correlate with defects in centrosome movements during both the first and the second cell cycle. Temperature shift experiments with par-2(it5ts) indicate that the par-2(+) activity is not required after the two-cell stage. Analysis of double mutants shows that par-3 is epistatic to par-2. We propose a model wherein par-2(+) and par-3(+) act in concert during the first cell cycle to affect asymmetric modification of the cytoskeleton. This polar modification leads to different behaviors of centrosomes in the anterior and posterior and leads ultimately to blastomere-specific spindle orientations at the second cleavage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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