Background: Neural RNA-binding proteins are thought to play important roles in neural development and the functional regulation of postmitotic neurones by mediating post-transcriptional gene regulation. RNA-binding proteins belonging to the Musashi family are highly expressed in the nervous system; however, their roles are poorly understood.
Results: We identified a Caenorhabditis elegans Musashi homologue, MSI-1, whose RNA-recognition motifs show extensive similarity to those of Drosophila and vertebrate Musashi proteins. We isolated a msi-1 mutant and found males with this mutation to have a mating defect. C. elegans male mating behaviour includes a distinct series of steps: response to contact, backing, turning, vulva location, spicule insertion, and sperm transfer. msi-1 is required for the turning and vulva location steps. Like other Musashi family members, MSI-1 is expressed specifically in neural cells, including male-specific neurones required for turning and vulva location. However, msi-1 was not expressed in proliferating neural progenitors in C. elegans, unlike the Musashi family genes in other systems.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that msi-1 is expressed specifically in postmitotic neurones in C. elegans. msi-1 is required for full development of male mating behaviour, possibly through regulation of msi-1 expressing neurones.