PIE-1 is a bifunctional protein that regulates maternal and zygotic gene expression in the embryonic germ line of Caenorhabditis elegans

C. Tenenhaus, K. Subramaniam, M. A. Dunn, G. Seydoux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The CCCH zinc finger protein PIE-1 is an essential regulator of germ cell fate that segregates with the germ lineage during the first cleavages of the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. We have shown previously that one function of PIE-1 is to inhibit mRNA transcription. Here we show that PIE-1 has a second function in germ cells; it is required for efficient expression of the maternally encoded Nanos homolog NOS-2. This second function is genetically separable from PIE-I's inhibitory effect on transcription. A mutation in PIE-1's second CCCH finger reduces NOS-2 expression without affecting transcriptional repression and causes primordial germ cells to stray away from the somatic gonad, occasionally exiting the embryo entirely. Our results indicate that PIE-1 promotes germ cell fate by two independent mechanisms as follows: (1) inhibition of transcription, which blocks zygotic programs that drive somatic development, and (2) activation of protein expression from nos-2 and possibly other maternal RNAs, which promotes primordial germ cell development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1040
Number of pages10
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2001



  • CCCH fingers
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Germ line
  • Maternal mRNAs
  • P granules
  • PIE-1
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology

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