Translational regulation of tra-2 by its 3' untranslated region controls sexual identity in C. elegans

Cell. 1993 Oct 22;75(2):329-39. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(93)80074-o.


C. elegans hermaphrodites make sperm and then oocytes in an otherwise female animal. Gain-of-function mutations in the sex-determining gene tra-2 (tra-2(gf)) transform hermaphrodites into females (spermless hermaphrodites). The tra-2(gf) mutations map to a perfect direct repeat in the 3' untranslated region; each repeat is called a direct repeat element (DRE). Three experiments demonstrate that DREs repress tra-2 at the translational level. First, tra-2(gf) mRNAs are associated with larger polysomes than are their wild-type counterparts. Second, translation of a reporter RNA is inhibited by DREs. Third, disruption of DREs does not increase tra-2 mRNA levels. An RNA binding activity specifically associates with the DREs. We propose that tra-2 translation is inhibited by association of an RNA binding-factor with the DREs and that this translational control is essential for development of C. elegans as a hermaphrodite/male species.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Disorders of Sex Development / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Polyribosomes / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics
  • Ribonucleoproteins / genetics*
  • Sex Differentiation / genetics*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • tra2 protein, Drosophila