A wide variety of cells are generated by the expression of characteristic sets of genes, primarily those regulated by cell-specific transcription. To elucidate the mechanism regulating cell-specific gene expression in a highly specialized cell, AFD thermosensory neuron in Caenorhabditis elegans, we analyzed the promoter sequences of guanylyl cyclase genes, gcy-8 and gcy-18, exclusively expressed in AFD. In this study, we showed that AFD-specific expression of gcy-8 and gcy-18 requires the co-expression of homeodomain proteins, CEH-14/LHX3 and TTX-1/OTX1. We observed that mutation of ttx-1 or ceh-14 caused a reduction in the expression of gcy-8 and gcy-18 and that the expression was completely lost in double mutants. This synergy effect was also observed with other AFD marker genes, such as ntc-1, nlp-21and cng-3. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays revealed direct interaction of CEH-14 and TTX-1 proteins with gcy-8 and gcy-18 promoters in vitro. The binding sites of CEH-14 and TTX-1 proteins were confirmed to be essential for AFD-specific expression of gcy-8 and gcy-18 in vivo. We also demonstrated that forced expression of CEH-14 and TTX-1 in AWB chemosensory neurons induced ectopic expression of gcy-8 and gcy-18 reporters in this neuron. Finally, we showed that the regulation of gcy-8 and gcy-18 expression by ceh-14 and ttx-1 is evolutionally conserved in five Caenorhabditis species. Taken together, ceh-14 and ttx-1 expression determines the fate of AFD as terminal selector genes at the final step of cell specification.
Kagoshima, H., & Kohara, Y. (2015). Co-expression of the transcription factors CEH-14 and TTX-1 regulates AFD neuron-specific genes gcy-8 and gcy-18 in C. elegans. Developmental Biology, 399(2), 325–336. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.01.010