The canonical eIF4E isoform of C. elegans regulates growth, embryogenesis, and germline sex-determination

Biol Open. 2015 May 15;4(7):843-51. doi: 10.1242/bio.011585.


eIF4E plays a conserved role in initiating protein synthesis, but with multiple eIF4E isoforms present in many organisms, these proteins also adopt specialized functions. Previous RNAi studies showed that ife-3, encoding the sole canonical eIF4E isoform of Caenorhabditis elegans, is essential for viability. Using ife-3 gene mutations, we show here that it is maternal ife-3 function that is essential for embryogenesis, but ife-3 null progeny of heterozygous animals are viable. We find that zygotic ife-3 function promotes body growth and regulates germline development in hermaphrodite worms. Specifically, the normal transition from spermatogenesis to oogenesis in the hermaphrodite germline fails in ife-3 mutants. This failure to switch is reversed by inhibiting expression of the key masculinizing gene, fem-3, suggesting ife-3 resembles a growing number of genes that promote the sperm/oocyte switch by acting genetically as upstream inhibitors of fem-3.

Keywords: C. elegans; EIF4E; Germline; Oogenesis; Sex-determination; Spermatogenesis.