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Polycomb-like genes are necessary for specification of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans.

Yang Y., Sun Y., Luo X., Zhang Y., Chen Y., Tian E., Lints R., Zhang H.

The molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of neurons with defined neurotransmitters are not well understood. In this study, we demonstrate that the PcG-like genes in Caenorhabditis elegans, sop-2 and sor-3, regulate the formation of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons and several other neuronal properties. sor-3 encodes a novel protein containing an MBT repeat, a domain that contains histone-binding activity and is present in PcG proteins SCM and Sfmbt in other organisms. We further show that mutations in sor-3 lead to ectopic expression of Hox genes and cause homeotic transformations. Specification of certain neuronal identities by these PcG-like genes appears to involve regulation of non-Hox gene targets. Our studies revealed that the PcG-like genes are crucial for coordinately regulating the expression of discrete aspects of neuronal identities in C. elegans.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104:852-857(2007) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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