Patterning of the Caenorhabditis elegans head region by the Pax-6 family member vab-3

Nature. 1995 Sep 7;377(6544):52-5. doi: 10.1038/377052a0.


The Pax-6 genes are important for eye development in both vertebrates and Drosophila. Mutations in the human PAX6 gene are found in patients with a variety of eye disorders, including aniridia and Peters' anomaly, and mutations in the Drosophila Pax-6 homologue cause the eyeless phenotype. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, vab-3 mutants display many defects in head-region development, including aberrant morphogenesis, transformation of hypodermal (epidermal-like) cell fates to those of posterior homologues, and abnormal specification of neurons. Here we show that vab-3 is a member of the paired-domain-containing Pax-6 gene family and is expressed in head-region cells. This C. elegans Pax-6 locus can also encode proteins lacking the paired domain. Our results suggest that a primordial role of the Pax-6 gene family could have been to pattern part of the head region, and that Pax-6 genes subsequently evolved to be more specifically involved in eye development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Helminth
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Eye Proteins
  • Head / embryology
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tail / embryology
  • Transcription Factors


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA, Helminth
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor
  • PAX6 protein, human
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • vab-3 protein, C elegans

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U31537