Identification of genes expressed in C. elegans touch receptor neurons

Nature. 2002 Jul 18;418(6895):331-5. doi: 10.1038/nature00891.


The extent of gene regulation in cell differentiation is poorly understood. We previously used saturation mutagenesis to identify 18 genes that are needed for the development and function of a single type of sensory neuron--the touch receptor neuron for gentle touch in Caenorhabditis elegans. One of these genes, mec-3, encodes a transcription factor that controls touch receptor differentiation. By culturing and isolating wild-type and mec-3 mutant cells from embryos and applying their amplified RNA to DNA microarrays, here we have identified genes that are known to be expressed in touch receptors, a previously uncloned gene (mec-17) that is needed for maintaining touch receptor differentiation, and more than 50 previously unknown mec-3-dependent genes. These genes are randomly distributed in the genome and under-represented both for genes that are co-expressed in operons and for multiple members of gene families. Using regions 5' of the start codon of the first 20 genes, we have also identified an over-represented heptanucleotide, AATGCAT, that is needed for the expression of touch receptor genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Size
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genes, Helminth / genetics*
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / metabolism
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Helminth / genetics
  • RNA, Helminth / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Response Elements / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Helminth
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors
  • mec-3 protein, C elegans