Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (InsP3) activates receptors (InsP3Rs) that mediate intracellular Ca(2+ )release, thereby modulating intracellular calcium signals and regulating important aspects of cellular physiology and gene expression. To further our understanding of InsP3Rs we have characterised InsP3Rs and the InsP3R gene, itr-1, from the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. cDNAs encoding InsP3Rs were cloned enabling us to: (a) identify three putative transcription start sites that result in alternative mRNA 5' ends: (b) detect alternative splicing at three sites and: (c) determine the full genomic organisation of the itr-1 gene. The InsP3R protein (ITR-1) is approximately 42 % identical with known InsP3Rs and possesses conserved structural features. When the putative InsP3 binding domain was expressed in Escherichia coli, specific binding of InsP3 was detected. Using antibodies against ITR-1 we detected a protein of 220 kDa in C. elegans membranes. These antibodies and itr-1::GFP (green fluorescent protein) reporter constructs were used to determine the expression pattern of itr-1 in C. elegans. Strong expression was observed in the intestine, pharynx, nerve ring, excretory cell and gonad. These results demonstrate the high degree of structural and functional conservation of InsP3Rs from nematodes to mammals and the utility of C. elegans as a system for studies on InsP3R mediated signalling.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.