Control of sex-specific apoptosis in C. elegans by the BarH homeodomain protein CEH-30 and the transcriptional repressor UNC-37/Groucho

Erin Peden, Elizabeth Kimberly, Keiko Gengyo-Ando, Shohei Mitani, Ding Xue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Apoptosis is essential for proper development and tissue homeostasis in metazoans. It plays a critical role in generating sexual dimorphism by eliminating structures that are not needed in a specific sex. The molecular mechanisms that regulate sexually dimorphic apoptosis are poorly understood. Here we report the identification of the ceh-30 gene as a key regulator of sex-specific apoptosis in Caenorhabditis elegans. Loss-of-function mutations in ceh-30 cause the ectopic death of male-specific CEM neurons. ceh-30 encodes a BarH homeodomain protein that acts downstream from the terminal sex determination gene tra-1, but upstream of, or in parallel to, the cell-death-initiating gene egl-1 to protect CEM neurons from undergoing apoptosis in males. The second intron of the ceh-30 gene contains two adjacent cis-elements that are binding sites for TRA-1A and a POU-type homeodomain protein UNC-86 and acts as a sensor to regulate proper specification of the CEM cell fate. Surprisingly, the N terminus of CEH-30 but not its homeodomain is critical for CEH-30's cell death inhibitory activity in CEMs and contains a conserved eh1/FIL domain that is important for the recruitment of the general transcriptional repressor UNC-37/Groucho. Our study suggests that ceh-30 defines a critical checkpoint that integrates the sex determination signal TRA-1 and the cell fate determination and survival signal UNC-86 to control the sex-specific activation of the cell death program in CEMs through the general transcription repressor UNC-37.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3195-3207
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • C. elegans
  • Sex-specific
  • Transcriptional regulation
  • ceh-30
  • unc-37/Groucho

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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