Two homologous genes, lin-12 and glp-1, encode transmembrane proteins required for regulatory cell interactions during C. elegans development. Based on their single mutant phenotypes, each gene has been thought to govern a distinct set of cell fates. We show here that lin-12 and glp-1 are functionally redundant during embryogenesis: Unlike either single mutant, the lin-12 glp-1 double mutant dies soon after hatching. Numerous cellular defects can be observed in these Lag (for lin-12 and glp-1) double mutants. Furthermore, we have identified two genes, lag-1 and lag-2, that appear to be required for both lin-12 and glp-1-mediated cell interactions. Strong loss-of-function lag mutants are phenotypically indistinguishable from the lin-12 glp-1 double; weak lag mutants have phenotypes typical of lin-12 and glp-1 single mutants. We speculate that the lin-12 and glp-1 proteins are biochemically interchangeable and that their divergent roles in development may rely largely on differences in gene expression.

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