Most genes encoding cytoplasmic intermediate filament (IF) proteins of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are required in late embryogenesis

Eur J Cell Biol. 2004 Sep;83(9):457-68. doi: 10.1078/0171-9335-00407.


Intestinal cells of C. elegans show an unexpectedly high complexity of cytoplasmic intermediate filament (IF) proteins. Of the 11 known IF genes six are coexpressed in the intestine, i.e. genes B2, C1, C2, D1, D2, and E1. Specific antibodies and GFP-promoter constructs show that genes B2, D1, D2, and E1 are exclusively expressed in intestinal cells. Using RNA interference (RNAi) by microinjection at 25 degrees C rather than at 20 degrees C we observe for the first time lethal phenotypes for C1 and D2. RNAi at 25 degrees C also shows that the known A1 phenotype occurs already in the late embryo after microinjection and is also observed by feeding which was not the case at 20 degrees C. Thus, RNAi at 25 degrees C may also be useful for the future analysis of other nematode genes. Finally, we show that triple RNAi at 20 degrees C is necessary for the combinations B2, D1, E1 and B2, D1, D2 to obtain a phenotype. Together with earlier results on genes A1, A2, A3, B1, and C2 RNAi phenotypes are now established for all 11IF genes except for the A4 gene. RNAi phenotypes except for A2 (early larval lethality) and C2 (adult phenotype) relate to the late embryo. We conclude that in C. elegans cytoplasmic IFs are required for tissue integrity including late embryonic stages. This is in strong contrast to the mouse, where ablation of IF genes apparently does not affect the embryo proper.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / genetics*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / physiology
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Larva
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Interference / physiology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins