Developmental timing in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is controlled by heterochronic genes, mutations in which cause changes in the relative timing of developmental events. One of the heterochronic genes, let-7, encodes a microRNA that is highly evolutionarily conserved, suggesting that similar genetic pathways control developmental timing across phyla. Here we report that the nuclear receptor nhr-25, which belongs to the evolutionarily conserved fushi tarazu-factor 1/nuclear receptor NR5A subfamily, interacts with heterochronic genes that regulate the larva-to-adult transition in C. elegans. We identified nhr-25 as a regulator of apl-1, a homolog of the Alzheimer's amyloid precursor protein-like gene that is downstream of let-7 family microRNAs. NHR-25 controls not only apl-1 expression but also regulates developmental progression in the larva-to-adult transition. NHR-25 negatively regulates the expression of the adult-specific collagen gene col-19 in lateral epidermal seam cells. In contrast, NHR-25 positively regulates the larva-to-adult transition for other timed events in seam cells, such as cell fusion, cell division and alae formation. The genetic relationships between nhr-25 and other heterochronic genes are strikingly varied among several adult developmental events. We propose that nhr-25 has multiple roles in both promoting and inhibiting the C. elegans heterochronic gene pathway controlling adult differentiation programs.
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