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PIE-1 is a bifunctional protein that regulates maternal and zygotic gene expression in the embryonic germ line of Caenorhabditis elegans.

Tenenhaus C., Subramaniam K., Dunn M.A., Seydoux G.

The CCCH zinc finger protein PIE-1 is an essential regulator of germ cell fate that segregates with the germ lineage during the first cleavages of the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. We have shown previously that one function of PIE-1 is to inhibit mRNA transcription. Here we show that PIE-1 has a second function in germ cells; it is required for efficient expression of the maternally encoded Nanos homolog NOS-2. This second function is genetically separable from PIE-1's inhibitory effect on transcription. A mutation in PIE-1's second CCCH finger reduces NOS-2 expression without affecting transcriptional repression and causes primordial germ cells to stray away from the somatic gonad, occasionally exiting the embryo entirely. Our results indicate that PIE-1 promotes germ cell fate by two independent mechanisms as follows: (1) inhibition of transcription, which blocks zygotic programs that drive somatic development, and (2) activation of protein expression from nos-2 and possibly other maternal RNAs, which promotes primordial germ cell development.

Genes Dev. 15:1031-1040(2001) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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