The regulation of mRNA translation is of fundamental importance in biological mechanisms ranging from embryonic axis specification to the formation of long-term memory. POS-1 is one of several CCCH zinc-finger RNA-binding proteins that regulate cell fate specification during C. elegans embryogenesis. Paradoxically, pos-1 mutants exhibit striking defects in endo-mesoderm development but have wild-type distributions of SKN-1, a key determinant of endo-mesoderm fates. RNAi screens for pos-1 suppressors identified genes encoding the cytoplasmic poly(A)-polymerase homolog GLD-2, the Bicaudal-C homolog GLD-3, and the protein NEG-1. We show that NEG-1 localizes in anterior nuclei, where it negatively regulates endo-mesoderm fates. In posterior cells, POS-1 binds the neg-1 3' UTR to oppose GLD-2 and GLD-3 activities that promote NEG-1 expression and cytoplasmic lengthening of the neg-1 mRNA poly(A) tail. Our findings uncover an intricate series of post-transcriptional regulatory interactions that, together, achieve precise spatial expression of endo-mesoderm fates in C. elegans embryos.
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