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The conserved proteins CHE-12 and DYF-11 are required for sensory cilium function in Caenorhabditis elegans

Taulant Bacaj, Yun Lu, Shai Shaham
Genetics 2008, 178 (2): 989-1002
Sensory neuron cilia are evolutionarily conserved dendritic appendages that convert environmental stimuli into neuronal activity. Although several cilia components are known, the functions of many remain uncharacterized. Furthermore, the basis of morphological and functional differences between cilia remains largely unexplored. To understand the molecular basis of cilia morphogenesis and function, we studied the Caenorhabditis elegans mutants che-12 and dyf-11. These mutants fail to concentrate lipophilic dyes from their surroundings in sensory neurons and are chemotaxis defective. In che-12 mutants, sensory neuron cilia lack distal segments, while in dyf-11 animals, medial and distal segments are absent. CHE-12 and DYF-11 are conserved ciliary proteins that function cell-autonomously and are continuously required for maintenance of cilium morphology and function. CHE-12, composed primarily of HEAT repeats, may not be part of the intraflagellar transport (IFT) complex and is not required for the localization of some IFT components. DYF-11 undergoes IFT-like movement and may function at an early stage of IFT-B particle assembly. Intriguingly, while DYF-11 is expressed in all C. elegans ciliated neurons, CHE-12 expression is restricted to some amphid sensory neurons, suggesting a specific role in these neurons. Our results provide insight into general and neuron-specific aspects of cilium development and function.


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