The lin-4 gene encodes a small RNA that is required to translationally repress lin-14 toward the end of the first larval stage of Caenorhabditis elegans development. To determine if the timing of LIN-14 protein down-regulation depends on the temporal profile of lin-4 RNA level, we analyzed the stage-specificity of lin-4 RNA expression during wild-type development and examined the phenotypes of transgenic worms that overexpress lin-4 RNA during the first larval stage. We found that lin-4 RNA first becomes detectable at approximately 12 h of wild-type larval development and rapidly accumulates to nearly maximum levels by 16 h. This profile of lin-4 RNA accumulation corresponded to the timing of LIN-14 protein down-regulation. Transgenic strains that express elevated levels of lin-4 RNA prior to 12 h of development display reduced levels of LIN-14 protein and precocious phenotypes consistent with abnormally early loss of lin-14 activity. These results indicate that the temporal profile of lin-4 RNA accumulation specifies the timing of LIN-14 down-regulation and thereby controls the timing of postembryonic developmental events.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.