ELLI-1, a novel germline protein, modulates RNAi activity and P-granule accumulation in Caenorhabditis elegans

PLoS Genet. 2017 Feb 9;13(2):e1006611. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006611. eCollection 2017 Feb.


Germ cells contain non-membrane bound cytoplasmic organelles that help maintain germline integrity. In C. elegans they are called P granules; without them, the germline undergoes partial masculinization and aberrant differentiation. One key P-granule component is the Argonaute CSR-1, a small-RNA binding protein that antagonizes accumulation of sperm-specific transcripts in developing oocytes and fine-tunes expression of proteins critical to early embryogenesis. Loss of CSR-1 complex components results in a very specific, enlarged P-granule phenotype. In a forward screen to identify mutants with abnormal P granules, ten alleles were recovered with a csr-1 P-granule phenotype, eight of which contain mutations in known components of the CSR-1 complex (csr-1, ego-1, ekl-1, and drh-3). The remaining two alleles are in a novel gene now called elli-1 (enlarged germline granules). ELLI-1 is first expressed in primordial germ cells during mid-embryogenesis, and continues to be expressed in the adult germline. While ELLI-1 forms cytoplasmic aggregates, they occasionally dock, but do not co-localize with P granules. Instead, the majority of ELLI-1 aggregates accumulate in the shared germline cytoplasm. In elli-1 mutants, several genes that promote RNAi and P-granule accumulation are upregulated, and embryonic lethality, sterility, and RNAi resistance in a hypomorphic drh-3 allele is enhanced, suggesting that ELLI-1 functions with CSR-1 to modulate RNAi activity, P-granule accumulation, and post-transcriptional expression in the germline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism*
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / genetics
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA Replicase / genetics
  • RNA Replicase / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcription Factors, General / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors, General / metabolism


  • CSR-1 protein, C elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • ELLI-1 protein, C elegans
  • Ekl protein, c elegans
  • PGL-1 protein, C elegans
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors, General
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Drh-3 protein, C elegans
  • EGO-1 protein, C elegans
  • RNA Replicase
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases