In the germline of Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodites, meiotic cell cycle progression occurs in spatially restricted regions. Immediately after leaving the distal mitotic region, germ cells enter meiosis and thereafter remain in the pachytene stage of first meiotic prophase for an extended period. At the dorsoventral gonadal flexure, germ cells exit pachytene and subsequently become arrested in diakinesis. We have found that exit from pachytene is dependent on the function of three members of the MAP kinase signaling cascade. One of these genes, mek-2, is a newly identified C. elegans MEK (MAP kinase kinase). The other two genes, mpk-1/sur-1 (MAP kinase) and let-60 ras, were previously identified based on their roles in vulval induction and are shown here to act in combination with mek-2 to permit exit from pachytene. Through genetic mosaic analysis, we demonstrate that the expression of mpk-1/sur-1 is required within the germline to permit exit from pachytene.

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