Background: Generation of asymmetry in the one-cell embryo of C. elegans establishes the anterior--posterior axis (A-P), and is necessary for the proper identity of early blastomeres. Conserved PAR proteins are asymmetrically distributed and are required for the generation of this early asymmetry. The small G protein Cdc42 is a key regulator of polarity in other systems, and recently it has been shown to interact with the mammalian homolog of PAR-6. The function of Cdc42 in C. elegans had not yet been investigated, however.
Results: Here, we show that C. elegans cdc-42 plays an essential role in the polarity of the one-cell embryo and the proper localization of PAR proteins. Inhibition of cdc-42 using RNA interference results in embryos with a phenotype that is nearly identical to par-3, par-6, and pkc-3 mutants, and asymmetric localization of these and other PAR proteins is lost. We further show that C. elegans CDC-42 physically interacts with PAR-6 in a yeast two-hybrid system, consistent with data on the interaction of human homologs.
Conclusions: Our results show that CDC-42 acts in concert with the PAR proteins to control the polarity of the C. elegans embryo, and provide evidence that the interaction of CDC-42 and the PAR-3/PAR-6/PKC-3 complex has been evolutionarily conserved as a functional unit.