mec-3, a homeobox-containing gene that specifies differentiation of the touch receptor neurons in C. elegans

Cell. 1988 Jul 1;54(1):5-16. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(88)90174-2.


The mec-3 gene is essential for proper differentiation of the set of six touch receptor neurons in C. elegans. In mutants lacking mec-3 activity, the touch receptors express none of their unique differentiated features and appear to be transformed into other types of neurons. We cloned the mec-3 gene by transposon tagging and showed that a mec-3 mutant can be rescued by germ line transformation using a 5.6 kb genomic DNA fragment. In a strain in which transforming mec-3 DNA is present in about 50 copies per haploid genome, additional cells express a mec-3-dependent phenotype. The putative coding sequence of mec-3 contains a homeobox, suggesting that the mec-3 protein specifies the expression of touch cell differentiation by binding to DNA and regulating transcription of genes that encode the differentiated features of these cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA / genetics
  • Exons
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Introns
  • Mechanoreceptors / cytology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Phenotype
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • DNA

Associated data

  • GENBANK/M20244