Innexins are the subunits of invertebrate gap junctions. Here we show that the innexin INX-14 promotes sperm guidance to the fertilization site in the Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite reproductive tract. inx-14 loss causes cell nonautonomous defects in sperm migration velocity and directional velocity. Results from genetic and immunocytochemical analyses provide strong evidence that INX-14 acts in transcriptionally active oocyte precursors in the distal gonad, not in transcriptionally inactive oocytes that synthesize prostaglandin sperm-attracting cues. Somatic gonadal sheath cell interaction is necessary for INX-14 function, likely via INX-8 and INX-9 expressed in sheath cells. However, electron microscopy has not identified gap junctions in oocyte precursors, suggesting that INX-14 acts in a channel-independent manner or INX-14 channels are difficult to document. INX-14 promotes prostaglandin signaling to sperm at a step after F-series prostaglandin synthesis in oocytes. Taken together, our results support the model that INX-14 functions in a somatic gonad/germ cell signaling mechanism essential for sperm function. We propose that this mechanism regulates the transcription of a factor(s) that modulates prostaglandin metabolism, transport, or activity in the reproductive tract.
Published by Elsevier Inc.