Worm Breeder's Gazette 13(4): 71 (October 1, 1994)
These abstracts should not be cited in bibliographies. Material contained herein should be treated as personal communication and should be cited as such only with the consent of the author.
Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75235-9038. We study mutants affecting pharyngeal pumping in order to learn how pharyngeal muscle electrical activity is regulated. As we reported previously (WBG 13(1): 45), eat-12 plays an important role in pharyngeal muscle excitation and repolarization. Semi-dominant, apparent gain-of-function (gf) mutants in eat-12 (e.g., n2368) cause muscle hypercontraction and delay pharyngeal muscle repolarization, while recessive, loss-of-function (lf) mutants (e.g., egl-19(n582)) show feeble muscle contractions. n582/nDf41 is viable and has a more severe phenotype than n582. This result suggested that n582 is not a null but that null alleles could be obtained by non-complementation screens. What might the null phenotype of eat-12 be? If eat-12 affects muscle directly, one might expect to see a Pat (paralyzed, arrested elongation at two-fold) phenotype since that's true for many other genes involved in muscle function or organization (Williams and Waterston 1994, JCB 124: 475-490). On the other hand, if eat-12 affects muscle contraction by modulating the function of the nervous system, one might expect a phenotype similar to that of cha-1/unc-17 or unc-104, which is larval arrest. eat-12 null is Pat. We have collected 20 more EMS-induced lf alleles by either reverting the gf mutants or by non-complementation screens against n582. 11 of these have a Pat phenotype. Some viable alleles show a Vab (variable abnormal morphology) phenotype which appears to be caused by reduced embryonic rolling and consequent partial failure of elongation. Ben Williams has an impressive collection of Pat mutants (Williams and Waterston 1994). pat-5 maps near eat-12 and turns out to be allelic to eat-12. pat-5(st556) failed to complement eat-12(ad1008), eat-12(ad1019) (two Pat alleles) and egl-19(n582). pat-5 mutants have a phenotype similar to the Pat alleles of genes that may encode tropomyosin and troponin C, respectively. This similarity suggests that pat-5 may also play a role in embryonic muscle excitation or excitation-contraction coupling. Leslie Lobel has reported the partial cloning of a worm homolog of a mammalian voltage-gated calcium channel alpha1 subunit and the rescue of n582 with a pool of three cosmids (Lobel et. al., WBG 13(2): 71). We have narrowed the rescuing activity down to a single cosmid, C48A7. This cosmid rescues not only egl-19(n582) but also pat-5(st556). Considering the phenotypes of eat-12/egl-19/pat-5 and the fact that mutants can be rescued by a single cosmid containing a sequence which closely resembles a calcium channel subunit, we are driven to the idea that eat-12 encodes a calcium channel subunit that functions in muscles. We are pursuing more direct evidence. We thank Ben Williams for discussion, for doing the st556/ad1019 complementation test, and for sharing pat-5 mutants. We also thank Leslie Lobel for YAC grids and a plasmid clone containing his PCR fragment.