The NCK adaptor proteins are composed entirely of SH3 and SH2 domains and serve as protein interaction bridges for several receptors during signal transduction events. Here we report the molecular and genetic analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans nck-1 gene. C. elegans nck-1 encodes two isoforms: NCK-1A and a shorter isoform that lacks the first SH3 domain, NCK-1B. C. elegans nck-1 mutants exhibit defects in axon guidance and neuronal cell position, as well as defects in the excretory canal cell, gonad, and male mating. NCK-1 is broadly expressed in neurons and epithelial cells with NCK-1B being the most abundant isoform. NCK-1A and NCK-1B share a similar expression pattern in parts of the nervous system, but also have independent expression patterns in other tissues. Interestingly, NCK-1B is localized to the nuclei of many cells. Genetic rescue experiments show that NCK-1 functions cell autonomously and, in general, either NCK-1A or NCK-1B is sufficient to function in axon guidance. However, there appears to be specific roles for each isoform, for example NCK-1B is required for HSN cell migration while NCK-1A is required for efficient male mating. Genetic epistasis experiments show that NCK-1 functions redundantly with the LAR Receptor Tyrosine Phosphatase, PTP-3, and the Netrin receptor UNC-40.
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