Cell fates and fusion in the C. elegans vulval primordium are regulated by the EGL-18 and ELT-6 GATA factors -- apparent direct targets of the LIN-39 Hox protein

Development. 2002 Nov;129(22):5171-80.


Development of the vulva in C. elegans is mediated by the combinatorial action of several convergent regulatory inputs, three of which, the Ras, Wnt and Rb-related pathways, act by regulating expression of the lin-39 Hox gene. LIN-39 specifies cell fates and regulates cell fusion in the mid-body region, leading to formation of the vulva. In the lateral seam epidermis, differentiation and cell fusion have been shown to be regulated by two GATA-type transcription factors, ELT-5 and -6. We report that ELT-5 is encoded by the egl-18 gene, which was previously shown to promote formation of a functional vulva. Furthermore, we find that EGL-18 (ELT-5), and its paralogue ELT-6, are redundantly required to regulate cell fates and fusion in the vulval primordium and are essential to form a vulva. Elimination of egl-18 and elt-6 activity results in arrest by the first larval stage; however, in animals rescued for this larval lethality by expression of ELT-6 in non-vulval cells, the post-embryonic cells (P3.p-P8.p) that normally become vulval precursor cells often fuse with the surrounding epidermal syncytium or undergo fewer than normal cell divisions, reminiscent of lin-39 mutants. Moreover, egl-18/elt-6 reporter gene expression in the developing vulva is attenuated in lin-39(rf) mutants, and overexpression of egl-18 can partially rescue the vulval defects caused by reduced lin-39 activity. LIN-39/CEH-20 heterodimers bind two consensus HOX/PBC sites in a vulval enhancer region of egl-18/elt-6, one of which is essential for vulval expression of egl-18/elt-6 reporter constructs. These findings demonstrate that the EGL-18 and ELT-6 GATA factors are essential, genetically redundant regulators of cell fates and fusion in the developing vulva and are apparent direct transcriptional targets of the LIN-39 Hox protein.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Fusion
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dimerization
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Female
  • GATA Transcription Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Vulva / abnormalities
  • Vulva / growth & development*
  • Vulva / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • GATA Transcription Factors
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • ceh-20 protein, C elegans
  • egl-18 protein, C elegans
  • elt-6 protein, C elegans
  • lin-39 protein, C elegans
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins