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Spatiotemporal control of the Hox gene ceh-13 in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans


The Hox gene ceh-13 encodes a transcription factor that is orthologous to the mammalian HOX1 and the Drosophila Labial proteins. In contrast to other C. elegans Hox genes, ceh-13 is required for viability. Animals that lack ceh-13 function arrest as embryos or early larvae with severe, predominantly anterior, body morphology defects. ceh-13 is expressed in well defined cells at various time points throughout development. Not only loss of function but also ectopic expression of ceh-13 has deleterious effects on embryogenesis. Therefore, appropriate spatiotemporal control of ceh-13 is crucial for development. In our lab we concentrate on the characterization of factors that, directly or indirectly, regulate the ceh-13 transcription in the early embryo.

Early C. elegans embryo expressing a ceh-13::gfp reporter gene, differential interference contrast, fluorescence and merged.

We have identified an enhancer fragment (enh740) that is sufficient to drive a GFP reporter gene in a pattern indistinguishable from ceh-13 in the early embryo (Figure 1). To further define important sequence elements in enh740 promoter and to find the factors that act through them we use a combination of classical genetics, mutational analysis, phylogenetic foot printing, yeast-one-hybrid screens and candidate gene approaches.

Scientists involved

Stephan Knierer
Ryuji Minasaki
Viktoria Wegewitz


Minasaki, R., Puoti, A. and Streit, A. (2009). The DEAD-box protein MEL-46 is required in the germ line of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegansBMC Developmental Biology 9, 35.

Minasaki, R. and Streit, A.
 (2007). MEL-47, a novel protein required for early cell divisions in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegansMolecular Genetics and Genomics 277, 315-328.