Lipids play a pivotal role in embryogenesis as structural components of cellular membranes, as a source of energy, and as signaling molecules. On the basis of a collection of temperature-sensitive embryonic lethal mutants, a systematic database search, and a subsequent microscopic analysis of >300 interference RNA (RNAi)-treated/mutant worms, we identified a couple of evolutionary conserved genes associated with lipid storage in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. The genes include cpl-1 (cathepsin L-like cysteine protease), ccz-1 (guanine nucleotide exchange factor subunit), and asm-3 (acid sphingomyelinase), which is closely related to the human Niemann-Pick disease-causing gene SMPD1. The respective mutant embryos accumulate enlarged droplets of neutral lipids (cpl-1) and yolk-containing lipid droplets (ccz-1) or have larger genuine lipid droplets (asm-3). The asm-3 mutant embryos additionally showed an enhanced resistance against C band ultraviolet (UV-C) light. Herein we propose that cpl-1, ccz-1, and asm-3 are genes required for the processing of lipid-containing droplets in C. elegans embryos. Owing to the high levels of conservation, the identified genes are also useful in studies of embryonic lipid storage in other organisms.
Keywords: C. elegans; embryo development; embryonic lipid droplets; essential genes; yolk.
Copyright © 2016 by the Genetics Society of America.