The intestine plays an essential role in organism-wide regulatory networks in both vertebrates and invertebrates. In Caenorhabditis elegans, class 1 flr genes (flr-1, flr-3 and flr-4) act in the intestine and control growth rates and defecation cycle periods, while class 2 flr genes (flr-2, flr-5, flr-6 and flr-7) are characterized by mutations that suppress the slow growth of class 1 flr mutants. This study revealed that flr-2 gene controls antibacterial defense and intestinal color, confirming that flr-2 regulates intestinal functions. flr-2 encoded the only glycoprotein hormone alpha subunit in C. elegans and was expressed in certain neurons. Furthermore, FLR-2 bound to another secretory protein GHI-1, which belongs to a family of lipid- and lipopolysaccharide-binding proteins. A ghi-1 deletion mutation partially suppressed the short defecation cycle periods of class 1 flr mutants, and this effect was enhanced by flr-2 mutations. Thus, FLR-2 acts as a signaling molecule for the neural control of intestinal functions, which is achieved in a functional network involving class 1 and class 2 flr genes as well as ghi-1. These results are informative to studies of glycoprotein hormone signaling in higher animals.
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