Defecation behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans is driven by an endogenous ultradian clock in the intestine. Its periods are positively regulated by FLR-1, an ion channel of the epithelial sodium channel/degenerin superfamily, and FLR-4, a protein kinase with a hydrophobic domain at the carboxyl terminus. FLR-1 has many putative phosphorylation sites in the C-terminal intracellular region. This structure implies that the periods may be regulated by the phosphorylation of FLR-1 by FLR-4, but it remains to be clarified. Here, we show that a truncated FLR-1 lacking the C-terminal intracellular region resulted in longer periods, suggesting that this region is involved in the negative regulation of defecation cycle periods. Contrary to our expectation, FLR-4 was still necessary for the function of the truncated FLR-1. Furthermore, FLR-4 containing a kinase-dead mutation or lacking the whole kinase domain was sufficient for normal defecation cycle periods. FLR-4 was necessary for the stable expression of FLR-1::GFP, and its hydrophobic domain was sufficient also for this function. FLR-1 and FLR-4 are often colocalized in the plasma membrane. These data showed an unexpected role of FLR-4: its hydrophobic domain stabilizes the FLR-1 ion channel, a key regulator of defecation cycle periods in the intestine.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2011 by the Molecular Biology Society of Japan/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.