Linking Gene Expression in the Intestine to Production of Gametes Through the Phosphate Transporter PITR-1 in Caenorhabditis elegans

Genetics. 2016 Sep;204(1):153-62. doi: 10.1534/genetics.116.188532. Epub 2016 Jul 22.


Inorganic phosphate is an essential mineral for both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell metabolism and structure. Its uptake into the cell is mediated by membrane-bound transporters and coupled to Na(+) transport. Mammalian sodium-dependent Pi cotransporters have been grouped into three families NaPi-I, NaPi-II, and NaPi-III. Despite being discovered more than two decades ago, very little is known about requirements for NaPi-III transporters in vivo, in the context of intact animal models. Here we find that impaired function of the Caenorhabditis elegans NaPi-III transporter, pitr-1, results in decreased brood size and dramatically increased expression of vitellogenin by the worm intestine. Unexpectedly, we found that the effects of pitr-1 mutation on vitellogenin expression in the intestine could only be rescued by expression of pitr-1 in the germline, and not by expression of pitr-1 in the intestine itself. Our results indicate the existence of a signal from the germline that regulates gene expression in the intestine, perhaps linking nutrient export from the intestine to production of gametes by the germline.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; PiT; germline signaling; phosphate sensing; sodium-dependent phosphate transporter; yolk.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Male
  • Phosphate Transport Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphate Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Phosphate Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • Phosphate Transport Proteins
  • Phosphates
  • RNA, Messenger