C. elegans SUP-46, an HNRNPM family RNA-binding protein that prevents paternally-mediated epigenetic sterility

BMC Biol. 2017 Jul 17;15(1):61. doi: 10.1186/s12915-017-0398-y.


Background: In addition to DNA, gametes contribute epigenetic information in the form of histones and non-coding RNA. Epigenetic programs often respond to stressful environmental conditions and provide a heritable history of ancestral stress that allows for adaptation and propagation of the species. In the nematode C. elegans, defective epigenetic transmission often manifests as progressive germline mortality. We previously isolated sup-46 in a screen for suppressors of the hexosamine pathway gene mutant, gna-2(qa705). In this study, we examine the role of SUP-46 in stress resistance and progressive germline mortality.

Results: We identified SUP-46 as an HNRNPM family RNA-binding protein, and uncovered a highly novel role for SUP-46 in preventing paternally-mediated progressive germline mortality following mating. Proximity biotinylation profiling of human homologs (HNRNPM, MYEF2) identified proteins of ribonucleoprotein complexes previously shown to contain non-coding RNA. Like HNRNPM and MYEF2, SUP-46 was associated with multiple RNA granules, including stress granules, and also formed granules on active chromatin. SUP-46 depletion disrupted germ RNA granules and caused ectopic sperm, increased sperm transcripts, and chronic heat stress sensitivity. SUP-46 was also required for resistance to acute heat stress, and a conserved "MYEF2" motif was identified that was needed for stress resistance.

Conclusions: In mammals, non-coding RNA from the sperm of stressed males has been shown to recapitulate paternal stress phenotypes in the offspring. Our results suggest that HNRNPM family proteins enable stress resistance and paternally-mediated epigenetic transmission that may be conserved across species.

Keywords: BioID; C. elegans; Epigenetic inheritance; Germline immortality; HNRNPM; MYEF2; P granules; Stress granules; TDP43; Transgenerational sterility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels / genetics*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Potassium Channels
  • Sup-9 protein, C elegans