Worm Breeder's Gazette 13(5): 75 (February 1, 1995)
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.
 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 21218  Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, 10461 We have nearly completed an electron-microscopic survey of exc mutants, in which the long hollow processes (canals) of the excretory canal cell form large cysts. Together with results obtained by staining the canal cell with fluorescent wheat-germ agglutinin, these micrographs support our hypothesis that the defects in these mutants are focused at the apical surface of this polarized epithelial cell. Electron micrographs of wild-type canals show a long, narrow central lumen throughout the canal, surrounded by an electron-dense material apparently required to maintain the lumenal structure, and by a series of myriad connected coated vesicles forming canaliculi that open into the central lumen. This central structure excludes the other organelles, such as mitochondria, Golgi, and microtubules to the edges of the canal cell processes. The canal is extensively gap-junctioned to the hypoderm on one side, and forms a basement membrane on the other. The mutants preserve many of these elements. Gap junctions appear normal, as do the canalicular vesicles and microtubules. The most striking changes in some of the mutants appear in the electron-dense lumenal coating. In DIC views of exc-6 (rh103) (located very close to par-2 on IIIL) animals, the lumen repeatedly splits up into multiple wide channels that meander and coalesce. This is reflected in serial-section electron micrographs where the lumen splits into two lumena, each surrounded by an electron- dense coat, then rejoin to make a single lumen. This gene may encode a controlling element that determines how much lumen or lumenal coat is to be made, and where it is to be placed. Similar defects may be seen in exc-8 (rh210) (X) mutants. The exc-7 (rh252) mutants show, in addition to moderate-sized cysts primarily at the canal termini, a series of large non-canalicular vesicles at the canal tips that may reflect an inability to degrade lumenal material properly. The canal lumen is known to form a carbohydrate material that is presumably the basis for staining by wheat- germ agglutinin. Intriguingly, a chitinase has been found by the genome sequencing project in the area of IIC where exc-7 maps. Most strikingly, in mutants such as exc-2 (XL) and exc-5 (IVC) that form very large round cysts, the lumenal coat no longer is completely attached to the lumen. In a few micrographs, this density is seen attached to the lumen at a few points, but otherwise floating freely in the canal. Around many large cysts, the density has bunched up to one side of the cyst. The purpose of the density may be to regulate the spacing of canaliculi as well as to maintain the shape of the lumen; where the density has bunched up, the canaliculi are often excluded. These defects are all consistent with an inability to maintain properly an apical "basement membrane" required for cell shape. This is confirmed by the recent sequencing results of Steven Jones in Dave Baillie's laboratory, that the let-653 gene (defects of which cause formation of lethal excretory canal cysts in early larval stages) encodes a mucin. Mucins are secreted and membrane-bound highly hydrophilic O- linked glycoproteins found at the apical surfaces of most epithelia. We are now preparing to sequence the other exc genes to determine if they are related to this mucin.