Worm Breeder's Gazette 13(4): 82 (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.

mec-6 May Encode a Degenerin.

Charles Ma, Guoquiang Gu, Marty Chalfie

Dept. of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, NY, NY 10027

  The gene mec-6 is needed for the function of a set of touch receptor neurons
(ALMs, PLMs, AVM and PVM). In addition, its was found that recessive mutations
in mec-6 are able to suppress neuronal degenerations caused by dominant mutations
in the genes deg-1 , mec-4 ,and mec-10 .These three genes all belong to a family of
genes encoding degenerin protein.
  Based on the phenotype of the dominant mutations and the similarities of the
degenerins to the components of the vertebrate amiloride-sensitive sodium channel, it
is likely that the degenerins form membrane channels that can mutate to cause
neuronal degenerations. One attractive model is that MEC-4 and MEC-10 help to
form the mechanosensory channel in the touch receptor cells. In rat, the
amiloride-sensitive sodium channel is made of three different degenerin-like
subunits. We have investigated whether a third degenerin subunit is found in the
touch cells. The best candidate for such a component is the mec-6 protein product.
  We have found an apparent degenerin homologue that maps to the mec-6 region
on chromosome I. Using degenerative oligos that encode highly conserved regions of
the degenerin gene family, we were able to PCR amplify a small fragment from the
cosmid W01A8 that shares sequence homology with the degenerins. In addition, we
cloned a 1.3kb genomic fragment that includes this region and found that this
fragment detects a deletion in animals with the mec-6 ( u450 )gamma-ray mutation.
Several transcripts were detected on a northern blot using this genomic fragment as
probe. We are testing whether these transcripts are absent in the mec-6 ( u450
)animals. It seems likely that this degenerin is the mec-6 gene.