The PIE-1 protein and germline specification in C. elegans embryos

Nature. 1996 Aug 22;382(6593):710-2. doi: 10.1038/382710a0.


Totipotent germline blastomeres in Caenorhabditis elegans contain, but do not respond to, factors that promote somatic differentiation in other embryonic cells. Mutations in the maternal gene pie-1 result in the germline blastomeres adopting somatic cell fates. Here we show that pie-1 encodes a nuclear protein, PIE-1, that is localized to the germline blastomeres throughout early development. During division of each germline blastomere, PIE-1 initially associates with both centrosomes of the mitotic spindle. However, PIE-1 rapidly disappears from the centrosome destined for the somatic daughter, and persists in the centrosome of the daughter that becomes the next germline blastomere. The PIE-1 protein contains potential zinc-finger motifs also found in the mammalian growth-factor response protein TIS-11/NUP475 (refs 4-7). The localization and genetic properties of pie-1 provide an example of a repressor-based mechanism for preserving pluripotency within a stem cell lineage.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Blastomeres / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Centrosome / physiology
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Genes, Helminth
  • Germ Cells / cytology*
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • pie-1 protein, C elegans

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U62896