The generation of asymmetry in the one-cell embryo of Caenorhabditis elegans is necessary to establish the anterior-posterior axis and to ensure the proper identity of early blastomeres. Maternal-effect lethal mutations with a partitioning defective phenotype (par) have identified several genes involved in this process. We have identified a new gene, par-6, which acts in conjunction with other par genes to properly localize cytoplasmic components in the early embryo. The early phenotypes of par-6 embryos include the generation of equal-sized blastomeres, improper localization of P granules and SKN-1 protein, and abnormal second division cleavage patterns. Overall, this phenotype is very similar to that caused by mutations in a previously described gene, par-3. The probable basis for this similarity is revealed by our genetic and immunolocalization results; par-6 acts through par-3 by localizing or maintaining the PAR-3 protein at the cell periphery. In addition, we find that loss-of-function par-6 mutations act as dominant bypass suppressors of loss-of-function mutations in par-2.

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