LA-related protein 1 (LARP-1) belongs to an RNA-binding protein family containing a LA motif. Here, we identify LARP-1 as a regulator of sex determination. In C. elegans hermaphrodites, a complex regulatory network regulates the switch from sperm to oocyte production. We find that simultaneous depletion of larp-1 and the Nanos homologue nos-3 results in germline masculinization. This phenotype is accompanied by a strong reduction of the levels of TRA-1, a GLI-family transcription factor that promotes oogenesis. TRA-1 levels are regulated by CBCFEM-1, a ubiquitin ligase consisting of the FEM proteins, FEM-1, FEM-2 and FEM-3 and the cullin CUL-2. We show that both the masculinization phenotype and the reduction of TRA-1 levels observed in nos-3;larp-1 mutants require fem-3 activity, suggesting that nos-3 and larp-1 regulate the sperm-oocyte switch by inhibiting the fem genes. Consistently, fem-3 mRNA levels are increased in larp-1 mutants. By contrast, levels of fem-3 mRNA are not affected in nos-3 mutants. Therefore, our data indicate that LARP-1 and NOS-3 promote oogenesis by regulating fem-3 expression through distinct mechanisms.
Caenorhabditis elegans can develop as either self-fertile hermaphrodites or males. In the C. elegans hermaphrodite germline, sperm and oocytes are produced from a common pool of progenitor cells. Sperms are produced at the L3-L4 stage and oocytes at the adult stage. A complex regulatory network controls the switch from sperm to oocyte production. The final global sex-determination regulator TRA-1, a Gli-family transcription factor, specifies hermaphrodite fate by repressing male-specific genes (Ellis, 2008). TRA-1 protein levels are negatively regulated by a CUL-2/ElonginB/C-based ubiquitin ligase, referred to as CBCFEM-1 (Starostina et al., 2007). The CBCFEM-1 ubiquitin ligase contains the substrate-specific adaptor FEM-1, as well as two other FEM proteins: FEM-2, which is a phosphatase and FEM-3, which is a novel protein (Kamura et al., 2004; Starostina et al., 2007). The exact molecular function of FEM-2 and FEM-3 is not known, but both have been shown to stimulate CBCFEM-1 activity. Consistently, loss-of-function mutations in all three fem genes result in the feminization of the hermaphrodite germline (Kimble et al., 1984; Hodgkin, 1986).
FBF-1 and FBF-2 (FBF-1/2), two highly similar members of the Pumilio family, negatively regulate fem-3 and thereby promote oogenesis (Zhang et al., 1997). FBF-1/2 bind to a regulatory element in the fem-3 3′UTR and have been suggested to repress fem-3 translation (Zhang et al., 1997). In Drosophila, Pumilio forms a complex with Nanos and both are required for the translational repression of cyclin B and hunchback (Sonoda and Wharton, 1999; Kadyrova et al., 2007). Similarly, FBF-1/2 interact with one of the C. elegans homologues of Nanos, NOS-3, in yeast two-hybrid and in vitro binding assays (Kraemer et al., 1999), suggesting that NOS-3 represses fem-3 translation with FBF-1/2. However, although the germline of fbf-1/2 double mutants produces only sperm (Zhang et al., 1997), only 0.2% of the nos-3(q650) mutant hermaphrodites fail to switch from spermatogenesis to oogenesis (Kraemer et al., 1999).
Here, we show that larp-1 acts redundantly with nos-3 to control the sperm-oocyte switch in the hermaphrodite C. elegans germline. larp-1 encodes a protein containing a LA motif (LAM) and a highly conserved C-terminal region named DM15/LARP1. LARP-1 is a member of the so-called LAM protein super-family, which is present throughout the eukaryotic kingdom from unicellular organisms to vertebrates (Nykamp et al., 2008; Bousquet-Antonelli and Deragon, 2009). The LAM protein super family is divided into five subfamilies based on their evolutionary and structural characteristics (Bousquet-Antonelli and Deragon, 2009). The genuine La family proteins contain a LAM and RNA recognition motif (RRM), localize to the nucleus and have been shown to have various functions, including RNA-chaperone activity and protection of small-nucleolar RNAs from degradation (Wolin and Cedervall, 2002). LARP1 belongs to LAM family 1 (Bousquet-Antonelli and Deragon, 2009). In Drosophila, loss of the LARP-1 homologue LARP1 causes several defects during male meiosis and embryogenesis, including defects in spindle-pole organization and cytokinesis (Ichihara et al., 2007; Blagden et al., 2009). Other members of the LAM family 1, including the human homologues LARP1 and LARP2/LARP1b, are uncharacterized.
In C. elegans, larp-1 mutants have oogenesis defects similar to defects due to hyperactive Ras-MAPK signaling and have increased mRNA levels of several components of the MAPK-signaling pathway, suggesting that larp-1 regulates Ras-MAPK signaling at several levels (Nykamp et al., 2008).
Here, we identify a role for larp-1 in sex determination and show that larp-1 is redundantly required with nos-3 to allow the sperm-oocyte switch in the germline. We find that larp-1, in contrast to nos-3, is required to lower the abundance of fem-3 mRNA in adult hermaphrodites. To our knowledge larp-1 is the first gene identified that is shown to regulate levels of fem-3 mRNA. Together with our genetic data, we propose that larp-1 and nos-3 act as distinct repressors of the CBCFEM-1 ubiquitin ligase, thereby promoting TRA-1 accumulation and oogenesis.
LARP-1 and NOS-3 are redundantly required for the sperm-oocyte switch
We recently identified a role for NOS-3 in regulating cell polarity in the one-cell C. elegans embryo (Pacquelet et al., 2008). We showed that nos-3(q650) is a suppressor of par-2(it5) and that it regulates PAR-6 levels in a CUL-2-dependent manner (Labbe et al., 2006; Pacquelet et al., 2008). In an independent approach, we found that, similarly to nos-3(q650), larp-1(q783) suppresses par-2(it5) lethality (E.Z., unpublished results). While generating nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) double mutants to study the genetic interaction between these two par-2(it5) suppressors, we observed that a high proportion of nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) worms were sterile. Closer examination of nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) hermaphrodites showed that approximately half of them lacked oocytes and had an excess of sperm (Fig. 1 and Table 1). Similarly to the nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) double mutant, nos-3(q650); larp-1 (RNAi) hermaphrodites lack oocytes and have an excess of sperm (Table 1). This phenotype indicates a failure of switching from spermatogenesis to oogenesis and is similar to the germline masculinization observed in animals carrying fem-3 gain-of-function mutations (Barton et al., 1987). This phenotype was not observed in larp-1(q783) hermaphrodites (Nykamp et al., 2008) (Fig. 1 and Table 1) and was only observed in 0.2% of nos-3(q650) hermaphrodites (Kraemer et al., 1999). Thus, our data indicate that nos-3 and larp-1 are redundantly required in the hermaphrodite germline to regulate the switch from spermatogenesis to oogenesis.
LARP-1 and NOS-3 control oocyte arrangement and the length of the mitotic zone
Approximately half of the germlines in nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) hermaphrodites were not masculinized. However, these germlines showed strong defects in the way oocytes were positioned in the gonad. In wild-type germlines, oocytes were aligned and formed a single row (Fig. 2Aa,B). By contrast, we found that in larp-1(q783) mutants, 30% of the germlines had two oocytes and 17% had three or more oocytes at the same proximal-distal position (Fig. 2Ab,B). This confirms previous results by Nykamp and co-workers, who reported that larp-1(q783) mutants have several rows of oocytes in the proximal germline as a result of hyperactive MAPK signaling (Nykamp et al., 2008). 18% of nos-3(q650) mutants also had several oocytes – in most cases, two oocytes – at the same proximal-distal position (Fig. 2B). nos-3(q650); larp-1(q783) mutants showed a strong increase in this phenotype: among the nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germlines that switched to oogenesis, 87% had two or more oocytes, and the majority (78%) had three or more oocytes at the same proximal-distal position (Fig. 2Ad,B). Altogether, our data indicate that LARP-1 and NOS-3 redundantly control oocyte arrangement.
We also observed that larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3 (q650);larp-1(q783) germlines had a shorter mitotic zone compared with wild type. The distal end of the germline consists of mitotic cells. Following the mitotic zone is the ‘transition zone’, which contains both mitotic cells and cells that have entered meiosis. We measured the length of the mitotic zone in wild-type, larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germlines by counting the number of cells between the distal-tip cell (DTC) and the first germ cells entering meiotic prophase (recognized by their ‘half-moon’ shape in DAPI-stained germlines, see supplementary material Fig. S1A). We found the mitotic region length to be 18.7 cell-diameters in wild-type germlines, but only 11.9, 11.7 and 9.8 cell-diameters in larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germlines, respectively (see supplementary material Fig. S1B).
To further validate these observations, we determined the size of the mitotic zone using markers specific for the proliferative or the meiotic zones. As a marker of the proliferative zone we used the cohesin REC-8 (Pasierbek et al., 2001) and as a meiotic prophase marker the synaptonemal complex protein HIM-3 (Zetka et al., 1999). Germ cells in the mitotic zone were stained only by REC-8 and not by HIM-3 (Fig. 3A) (Hansen et al., 2004a), whereas the ‘transition zone’ contained both REC-8- and HIM-3-positive germ cells (Fig. 3A). Using this method, we found that the mitotic region in wild-type germlines was 18.7 cell-diameters in size. Similarly to the results obtained by DAPI staining, we found that the mitotic region in larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germlines was shorter than in wild type, ending 14.7, 11.8 and 11.6 cell-diameters from the DTC, respectively (Fig. 3B).
Finally, we counted the total number of germ cells occupying the mitotic region of the germline. Although wild-type germlines contained on average 243 germ cells in the mitotic region (Fig. 3C), larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germlines contained on average only 194, 188, and 152 mitotic germ cells, respectively (Fig. 3C). The total number of mitotic germ cells or the size of the mitotic region showed no correlation with the sex of the nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germline (data not shown). Therefore, as for other genes regulating sex determination (Zhang et al., 1997; Crittenden et al., 2002; Bachorik and Kimble, 2005; Thompson et al., 2005; Ariz et al., 2009), nos-3 and larp-1 also regulate the size of the proliferation zone in the germline. To conclude, LARP-1 and NOS-3 both have several functions in the germline, including regulation of the sperm-oocyte switch, oocyte arrangement and cell number in the mitotic zone.
larp-1 is redundantly required with nos-2 for germline formation
In C. elegans, there are three homologues of Drosophila Nanos: NOS-1, NOS-2 and NOS-3 (Kraemer et al., 1999). All three single mutants have no or very mild defects in the sperm-oocyte switch but 12% of nos-1(RNAi)nos3(q650) and 24% of nos-2(RNAi)nos-3(q650) animals do not switch from spermatogenesis to oogenesis (Kraemer et al., 1999). nos-1 nos-2 double mutants do not exhibit defects in the sperm-oocyte switch but nos-1 and nos-2 are redundantly required for germ-cell proliferation and survival at the second larval stage (Subramaniam and Seydoux, 1999). Since nos-3 and larp-1 redundantly control the sperm-oocyte switch, we tested whether larp-1 also showed a genetic interaction with nos-1 or nos-2. Depletion of nos-1 by RNAi in larp-1(q783) did not result in a synthetic genetic interaction, as 98% of nos-1(RNAi);larp-1(q783) hermaphrodites had a wild-type germline (Table 1). Depletion of nos-2 by RNAi in wild-type worms resulted in 27% of animals that either had no germline, or a small L2/L3-like germline (Table 1; supplementary material Fig. S2), which is similar to a previous report (Subramaniam and Seydoux, 1999). Depletion of nos-2 by RNAi in larp-1(q783) resulted in 79% sterile animals. A closer examination of the sterile nos-2(RNAi);larp-1(q783) adult hermaphrodites, showed that they had either a small L2/L3-like germline or no germline (Table 1; supplementary material Fig. S2).
Our results therefore show that larp-1 regulates the sperm-oocyte switch redundantly with nos-3, but not with the other Nanos homologues, nos-1 and nos-2. Moreover, whereas we did not observe a genetic interaction with nos-1, we found that larp-1 and nos-2 were redundantly required for germline formation.
The masculinization phenotype of nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) germlines requires fem-3
We next focused on the masculinization phenotype of nos-3 (q650);larp-1(q783) double mutants. NOS-3 interacts with the Pumilio homologues FBF-1/2 (Kraemer et al., 1999), which bind to a regulatory element in the fem-3 mRNA and have been proposed to repress fem-3 translation at the L4 stage to allow oogenesis (Zhang et al., 1997). We therefore tested whether the sperm-oocyte switch defect due to simultaneous loss of nos-3 and larp-1 depends on fem-3. Contrary to nos-3(q650);larp-1 (q783) mutants and like fem-3(e2006) mutants, nos-3 (q650);larp-1(q783);fem-3(e2006) hermaphrodites had feminized germlines (Fig. 4 and Table 1, all genotypes in Fig. 1 and Fig. 4 were examined in parallel and under the same conditions). This indicates that the masculinization phenotype of the nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) double mutant depends on fem-3. Consistent with the notion that both LARP-1 and NOS-3 promote oogenesis, we also found that inactivation of larp-1 and nos-3 enhanced the Mog (Masculinization of the germline) phenotype of a fem-3 temperature-sensitive gain-of-function allele [fem-3 (q22) (Barton et al., 1987)] grown at the permissive temperature. Indeed, loss of larp-1 or nos-3 in fem-3(q22) doubles the number of germlines with a Mog phenotype [Table 1, compare unc-5 (e53)fem-3(q22) with larp-1(q783);unc-5(e53)fem-3(q22) and nos-3(q650);unc-5(e53)fem-3(q22)].
Therefore, masculinization of the germline in the nos-3 (q650);larp-1(q783) mutant depends on fem-3, which is consistent with NOS-3 and LARP-1 inhibiting fem-3 to allow oogenesis to proceed.
NOS-3 and LARP-1 promote TRA-1 expression in the hermaphrodite germline
FEM-3 has been shown to function as a cofactor that enhances the activity of the CBCFEM-1 ubiquitin ligase and therefore promotes degradation of TRA-1 (Starostina et al., 2007), a transcription factor that inhibits spermatogenesis and promotes oogenesis (Hodgkin, 1987; Zarkower and Hodgkin, 1992). In wild-type hermaphrodite adult germlines, TRA-1 is predominantly localized in the nucleus, with high expression in the distal region of the gonad (Schvarzstein and Spence, 2006; Starostina et al., 2007). We observed that TRA-1 levels were reduced in the distal region of larp-1(q783) and nos-3(q650) single-mutant germlines (Fig. 5Aa-c). Quantification of TRA-1 levels in the nuclei of the proliferation zone indicated that TRA-1 levels in larp-1(q783) and nos-3(q650) germlines corresponded to 76% and 67% of wild-type levels, respectively (Fig. 5B). TRA-1 levels were further reduced in nos-3 (q650);larp-1(q783) double-mutant germlines (Fig. 5Ad), corresponding to 34% of wild-type levels (Fig. 5B). This strong reduction in TRA-1 levels is consistent with their masculinization phenotype.
TRA-1 is also expressed in hermaphrodite somatic tissues where it inhibits all aspects of male somatic differentiation, including male anatomy, physiology and behavior (Hodgkin, 1987). TRA-1 is in particular expressed in the hermaphrodite intestine, where it localizes mostly in the nuclei. Notably, intestinal nuclear expression is lower in males than in hermaphrodites (Schvarzstein and Spence, 2006; Starostina et al., 2007). We found that TRA-1 levels in the intestinal nuclei of nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) mutant were similar to those in the wild type (see supplementary material Fig. S3), indicating that nos-3 and larp-1 promote TRA-1 expression only in the germline and not in somatic tissues. This finding is consistent with our observation that the somatic tissues of nos-3(q650);larp-1 (q783) hermaphrodites have an apparently normal hermaphrodite morphology (data not shown).
We found that the decrease of TRA-1 levels in larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) mutant germlines required FEM-3. Indeed, there was no significant decrease of TRA-1 levels in either larp-1(q783);fem-3(e1996), nos-3 (q650);fem-3(e1996) or nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783);fem-3(e1996) germlines compared with fem-3(e1996) (Fig. 5Ae-h,B). In conclusion, our data suggest that both larp-1 and nos-3 promote TRA-1 expression by inhibiting fem-3, and this function is specific to the germline.
LARP-1 lowers fem-3 mRNA levels
LARP-1 binds poly-U and poly-G stretches of RNA in vitro and lowers the abundance of several mRNAs involved in the MAPK-signaling pathway in vivo (Nykamp et al., 2008). Since LARP-1 appears to promote oogenesis and regulate TRA-1 levels in a FEM-3-dependent manner, we tested whether LARP-1 regulates the abundance of fem-3 mRNA. We measured mRNA levels of fem-3 and eft-3 (which encodes a translation elongation factor) with real-time PCR (rt-PCR) in nos-3(q650) and larp-1(q783) L4 hermaphrodites. As previously reported, we found that eft-3 mRNA levels were not affected in larp-1(q783) mutants (Fig. 6) (Nykamp et al., 2008). In contrast to eft-3, fem-3 mRNA levels were increased two- to threefold in larp-1(q783) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) mutants in comparison with wild type (Fig. 6). No change in the level of the fem-3 transcript was observed in nos-3(q650) mutants (Fig. 6). This finding indicates that LARP-1, in contrast to NOS-3, controls fem-3 expression by regulating the levels of fem-3 mRNA.
In this work, we identify several roles for the LA-related protein LARP-1 during the development of the C. elegans germline. Interestingly, many of these roles are exacerbated by the simultaneous depletion of NOS-3 or NOS-2. We found that nos-3 (q650);larp-1(q783) double-mutant hermaphrodites have a masculinized germline and low TRA-1 protein levels. Note that tra-1 mRNA levels are not reduced in the nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) double mutant (data not shown). Consistent with TRA-1 being targeted to degradation by the CBCFEM-1 ubiquitin ligase (Starostina et al., 2007), we show that the regulation of the sperm-oocyte switch and of TRA-1 levels by nos-3 and larp-1 requires the activity of fem-3, suggesting that both NOS-3 and LARP-1 negatively regulate fem-3 (Fig. 7). Indeed, LARP-1 negatively controls fem-3 mRNA levels. LARP-1 also negatively regulates the abundance of mRNAs of the MAPK-signaling pathway (Nykamp et al., 2008). Taken together, these data suggest that LARP-1 regulates mRNAs, in particular fem-3 mRNA, by regulating their stability. Consistently, Drosophila Larp physically interacts with PABP (poly-A-binding protein) and is proposed to affect mRNA stability by modulating the interaction between PABP and the poly-A tail of mRNAs (Blagden et al., 2009). We tested whether LARP-1 interacts with fem-3 mRNA by performing immunoprecipitation experiments with a LARP-1 antibody. However, we found no enrichment of fem-3 mRNA in LARP-1 immunoprecipitates (supplementary material Fig. S4). This result suggests that the interaction between LARP-1 and fem-3 mRNA is too weak or too transient to be detected under these conditions or that LARP-1 affects fem-3 mRNA levels indirectly by controlling an unidentified regulator of fem-3 mRNA abundance.
In nos-3 mutants, fem-3 mRNA levels are not affected, indicating that NOS-3, in contrast to LARP-1, does not regulate the stability of the fem-3 transcript. This is consistent with a model in which NOS-3 represses fem-3 translation with FBF-1 and FBF-2 (Kraemer et al., 1999). Indeed, mutations in the fem-3 3′UTR that prevent the interaction between fem-3 mRNA and FBF-1/2, result in an increase of fem-3 mRNA poly-A tail length, but not in increased mRNA levels (Ahringer and Kimble, 1991; Zhang et al., 1997). FBF-1/2 physically interact with the CCF-1/Pop2 deadenylase in vitro and enhance the deadenylation activity of CCF-1/Pop2 on gld-1 substrate mRNA in vitro (Suh et al., 2009). Whether FBF-1/2 also regulate the poly-A tail length of fem-3 mRNA by recruiting and enhancing CCF-1/Pop2 deadenylating activity and how nos-3 contributes to FBF-1/2-dependent repression of fem-3 mRNA is currently unknown. The redundancy between nos-3 and larp-1 suggests that the repression of fem-3 translation by FBF-1/2 is compromised in nos-3 mutants, but is still sufficient to maintain low levels of FEM-3 and thereby high TRA-1 levels, to promote the sperm-oocyte switch. The concomitant increase of fem-3 mRNA abundance as a result of larp-1 depletion would then result in higher fem-3 expression levels and thus in levels of TRA-1 which are too low to allow the sperm-oocyte switch in nos-3;larp-1 mutants.
In addition to the FBF-1/2-dependent translational regulation of fem-3 mRNA (Zhang et al., 1997), FEM-3 protein binds to and is inhibited by TRA-2 (Mehra et al., 1999). LARP-1 is the first gene identified that controls the abundance of fem-3 mRNA, thereby revealing an additional mechanism for fem-3 regulation. These multiple regulatory mechanisms emphasize the importance of controlling fem-3 expression for proper sperm-oocyte switch. FEM-3 stimulates the activity of the CBC-1FEM-1 ubiquitin ligase, which degrades TRA-1; however, its exact molecular function is unknown. An understanding of its precise function might reveal why fem-3 levels and activity have to be tightly regulated.
The regulation of TRA-1 by nos-3 and larp-1 occurs only in the germline and not in somatic tissues. LARP-1 is ubiquitously expressed (our unpublished results) (Nykamp et al., 2008) and nos-3 mRNA was also detected in somatic tissues (Kraemer et al., 1999). This suggests that the repression of fem-3 by NOS-3 and LARP-1 is restricted to the germline by a germline-specific factor that works with NOS-3 and/or LARP-1. FBF-1 and FBF-2 are good candidates because they are expressed only in the germline, interact with NOS-3 and regulate the sperm-oocyte switch (Zhang et al., 1997; Kraemer et al., 1999).
As previously shown by Nykamp and colleagues, we found that several oocytes can occupy the same proximal-distal position in larp-1 single mutants. This phenotype is also observed in nos-3 (q650) mutants and strongly increased in nos-3(q650);larp-1 (q783) double mutants. In larp-1 mutants the phenotype was shown to depend on hyperactivation of MAPK signaling and the mRNA abundance of several MAPK-signaling components, including mpk-1, was increased (Nykamp et al., 2008). Whether LARP-1 controls their mRNA abundance directly has not been addressed yet. Interestingly, FBF-1/2 have been shown to negatively regulate expression of MAPK (Lee et al., 2007). Altogether, this suggests that NOS-3 and LARP-1 might redundantly regulate MAPK signaling. As for fem-3 regulation, it is plausible that in nos-3;larp-1 double mutants the simultaneous decrease of translational repression and increase of mRNA levels result in increased expression of mpk-1 and/or other components of the pathway, thereby leading to increased MAPK signaling.
LARP-1 and NOS-3 are also required to maintain the normal length of the mitotic region in the distal part of the germline. These results suggest that LARP-1 and NOS-3 are required either to promote mitosis in the proliferation zone or to inhibit entry into meiosis. Similarly, several other genes such as puf-8, mex-3 and fbf-1 regulate both mitosis-meiosis and sperm-oocytes decisions (Zhang et al., 1997; Crittenden et al., 2002; Bachorik and Kimble, 2005; Thompson et al., 2005; Ariz et al., 2009). Whether there is a direct link between the regulation of these two processes is currently not known. Although we found that nos-3(q650) mutants have a smaller mitotic region, it was also shown that nos-3, redundantly with gld-2, is required for entry into meiosis (Hansen et al., 2004b). This suggests that nos-3, probably depending on its binding partner, can promote both mitosis and entry into meiosis. Likewise, it was suggested that FBF-1, depending on its binding partner GLD-2 or CCF-1/Pop2, can either promote or inhibit GLD-1 expression, thereby explaining how FBF-1 can both maintain cells in mitosis and promote entry into meiosis (Suh et al., 2009).
Finally, we found that larp-1, contrary to nos-3, does not control the sperm-oocyte switch redundantly with nos-1 and nos-2 (Kraemer et al., 1999). Instead, nos-2(RNAi);larp-1(q783) double mutants have either no germ cells or a small L2/L3-like germline. Interestingly, nos-2 was shown, with nos-1, to be required for germ-cell proliferation and survival during larval development (Subramaniam and Seydoux, 1999). Our observations therefore suggest that larp-1 might function in the same pathway as nos-1.
In summary, we found that larp-1, with nos-3 and nos-2, regulates several processes during germline development. Our results suggest that the regulation of both mRNA abundance and translation is a widespread mechanism to ensure tight regulation of several crucial steps of germline development.
Materials and Methods
All strains were maintained as described by Brenner (Brenner, 1974). The wild-type strain was the N2 (Bristol) strain. The alleles used in this study were: LGII, nos-3 (q650) (Kraemer et al., 1999); LGIII, larp-1(q783) (Nykamp et al., 2008); LGIV, fem-3(e2006) (temperature-sensitive loss-of-function allele) (Hodgkin, 1986), fem-3 (e1996) (null allele) (Hodgkin, 1986), unc-5(e53)fem-3(q22)gf (temperature-sensitive gain-of-function allele) (Barton et al., 1987).
RNAi and conditions used to determine germline phenotypes
larp-1(RNAi) construct covering bp3241 to 4771 of R144.7 (unspliced) was cloned into a Gateway compatible L4440 vector (gift from Simon Boulton, London Research Institute, Clare Hall, South Mimms, UK). The nos-1(RNAi) was made from cDNA and covered the nos-1 coding region and nos-2(RNAi) construct was previously described (Kamath and Ahringer, 2003). nos-1(RNAi) and nos-2(RNAi) were both efficient as judged by the fact that nos-1(RNAi)nos-2(RNAi) double RNAi resulted in 91% of worms with a small or absent germline (n=248).
Germline phenotypes of larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650), nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783);fem-3(e2006) were determined after growing worms at 25°C and staining germlines with DAPI 24 hours after L4. Germline phenotypes of nos-3(q650);larp-1(RNAi) worms were examined by staining germlines with DAPI 52 hours after feeding L1 worms on 1 mM IPTG plates at 25°C. As a control, nos-3 (q650) worms were fed with the L4440 vector (Timmons and Fire, 1998). To determine the germline phenotype of larp-1(q783);unc-5(e53)fem-3(q22), larp-1 (q783);unc-5(e53), nos-3(q650);unc5(353)fem-3(q22), nos-3(q650);unc5(353) and unc-5(e53)fem-3(q22), worms were grown at 15°C and germlines stained with DAPI 24 hours after L4. nos-1 and nos-2 RNAi were injected into young adult worms, the injected animals were incubated at 25°C singled after 24 hours. The germline phenotype of F1 generation of the injected adults was determined by staining germlines with DAPI 18 hours after L4.
TRA-1 levels of larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650), nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783), larp-1 (q783);fem-3(e1996), nos-3(q650);fem-3(e1996), nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783);fem-3 (e1996) and fem-3(e1996) were measured by growing worms at 25°C and staining germlines with anti-TRA-1 antibody 24 hours after L4. To determine the size of the mitotic region of larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783), L1 worms were placed at 25°C and examined by DAPI, REC-8 and HIM-3 staining 18-24 hours after L4.
Quantitative real-time PCR
N2, larp-1(q783), nos-3(q650) and nos-3(q650);larp-1(q783) worms were grown at 25°C. Mid-to-late L4 larvae were harvested. RNA quantification was performed on L4 rather than adult worms in order to compare different genotypes with similar germlines (i.e. all producing sperms) and not worms producing both sperm and oocytes (N2, nos-3 and larp-1) with worms producing only sperm (nos-3;larp-1 mutants). Total RNA was isolated using the Nucleospin RNA II kit (Macherey-Nagel). Reverse transcription was done from 1 μg total RNA using random hexamers and Superscript III reverse transcriptase (Invitrogen). Real-time PCR was performed with Power SYBR Green Master Mix (Applied Biosystems) on a SDS 7900 HT instrument (Applied Biosystems). Each reaction was performed in three replicates. Raw Ct values obtained with SDS 2.2 (Applied Biosystems) were imported in Excel and normalization factor and fold changes were calculated using the GeNorm method (Vandesompele et al., 2002). pgk-1 mRNA was used to normalize mRNA amounts. The following oligos were used: 5′-AAGGCGGAACGGGAAAGT-3′ and 5′-ATCAAATCTTGCAACTCGAATCG-3′ for fem-3, 5′-AAGAACATGATCACTGGAACATCC-3′ and 5′-GCGACGACCAAGACGGC-3′ for eft-3, 5′-GCAAAATCACCAACAATCAACGT-3′ and 5′-CAGATTTGGCTCCGTTGCTAA-3′ for pgk-1.
Microscopy, immunofluorescence and image analysis
For TRA-1 (1/40) (Schvarzstein and Spence, 2006) immunofluorescence analysis, germlines and embryos were fixed in methanol and stained according to standard procedures. For HIM-3 (Zetka et al., 1999) and REC-8 (Pasierbek et al., 2001) staining, germlines were fixed for 5-10 minutes with 3% formaldehyde, 0.1 M K2HPO4, pH7.2, followed by a 5 minute fixation in 100% methanol (Hansen et al., 2004a). As a secondary antibody, we used Alexa-Fluor-488-coupled goat anti-rabbit (Molecular Probes) and Texas-Red-coupled anti-rat (Jackson ImmunoResearch). DAPI was used to stain DNA and images were acquired using a Leica SP2 confocal microscope (TRA-1) and DeltaVision system (Applied Precision) (REC-8 and HIM-3).
To quantify TRA-1 levels, germlines of the different mutants were stained in parallel under the same conditions and images were acquired using the same settings. For each analyzed germline, the mean fluorescence intensity per pixel was obtained by measuring and averaging the mean fluorescence intensity per pixel of 5 nuclei in the mitotic zone and subtracting the fluorescence background next to the observed germline. To quantify the total number of germ cells in the mitotic zone we acquired z-stacks of distal germlines and counted the germ cell using the ROI manager from ImageJ (http://rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/).
We thank Y. Audic, J. Kimble, Y. Kohara, J. Loidl, A. Puoti, T. Schedl, A. Spence, M. Zetka, members of the M. Gotta, A. Hajnal, M. Hengartner, G. Michaux, and M. Peter laboratories and the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center for reagents and advice. We also thank Françoise Schwager for technical help. We thank A. Hajnal for critical reading of the manuscript. We are grateful to K. Oegema for supporting E.Z. to finish the project in her lab. We also thank Gabor Csucs and the Light Microscopic facility at ETHZ and Mylène Docquier and Patrick Descombes of the genomic platform Frontiers in Genetics, University of Geneva. This work was supported by a Marie Heim-Voegtlin postdoctoral fellowship to A.P. and a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation to M.G. This article is freely accessible online from the date of publication.