Many genomic regions are required for normal embryonic programmed cell death in Caenorhabditis elegans

Asako Sugimoto, Ayumi Kusano, Rebecca R. Hozak, W. Brent Deny, Jiangwen Zhu, Joel H. Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


To identify genes involved in programmed cell death (PCD) in Caenorhabditis elegans, we screened a comprehensive set of chromosomal deficiencies for alterations in the pattern of PCD throughout embryonic development. From a set of 58 deficiencies, which collectively remove ∼74% of the genome, four distinct classes were identified. In class I (20 deficiencies), no significant deviation from wild type in the temporal pattern of cell corpses was observed, indicating that much of the genome does not contain zygotic genes that perform conspicuous roles in embryonic PCD. The class II deficiencies (16 deficiencies defining at least 11 distinct genomic regions) led to no or fewer-than-normal cell corpses. Some of these cause premature cell division arrest, probably explaining the diminution in cell corpse number; however, others have little effect on cell proliferation, indicating that the reduced cell corpse number is not a direct result of premature embryonic arrest. In class III (18 deficiencies defining at least 16 unique regions), an excess of cell corpses was observed. The developmental stage at which the extra corpses were observed varied among the class III deficiencies, suggesting the existence of genes that perform temporal-specific functions in PCD. The four deficiencies in class 1V (defining at least three unique regions), showed unusually large corpses that were, in some cases, attributable to extremely premature arrest in cell division without a concomitant block in PCD. Deficiencies in this last class suggest that the cell death program does not require normal embryonic cell proliferation to be activated and suggest that while some genes required for cell division might also be required for cell death, others are not. Most of the regions identified by these deficiencies do not contain previously identified zygotic cell death genes. There are, therefore, a substantial number of as yet unidentified genes required for normal PCD in C. elegans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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