Molecular analysis of the C. elegans sex-determining gene tra-1: a gene encoding two zinc finger proteins

Cell. 1992 Jul 24;70(2):237-49. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(92)90099-x.


The tra-1 gene is the terminal control gene for somatic sex determination in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Here we identify two tra-1 mRNAs: one is a 1.5 kb transcript that peaks in abundance in the second larval stage, and the other is a 5 kb transcript that is present at relatively constant abundance throughout development. Both RNAs occur at similar levels in both sexes, suggesting that regulation of tra-1 is posttranscriptional. Neither RNA is germline restricted. The two RNAs are colinear at their 5' ends: the shorter RNA encodes a protein with two zinc finger motifs, and the longer RNA encodes a protein with five zinc fingers. The identification of eight nonsense mutations confirms that these are authentic tra-1 RNAs and demonstrates that the longer one is essential for tra-1 activity. The transcription pattern reveals that alternative mRNA processing governs the number of zinc fingers in the resulting tra-1 protein. The tra-1 fingers are strikingly similar to those of three other proteins, the products of the human GLI and GLI3 and Drosophila cubitus interruptus Dominant (ciD) genes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis / genetics*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Drosophila
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Sex Determination Analysis
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics*


  • RNA, Messenger

Associated data

  • GENBANK/L05499
  • GENBANK/M87278
  • GENBANK/M93256
  • GENBANK/M94130
  • GENBANK/M94264
  • GENBANK/S72766
  • GENBANK/S72767
  • GENBANK/S72768
  • GENBANK/S72769
  • GENBANK/S72771