daf-2, daf-16 and daf-23: genetically interacting genes controlling Dauer formation in Caenorhabditis elegans.
S Gottlieb, G Ruvkun

Abstract

Under conditions of high population density and low food, Caenorhabditis elegans forms an alternative third larval stage, called the dauer stage, which is resistant to desiccation and harsh environments. Genetic analysis of some dauer constitutive (Daf-c) and dauer defective (Daf-d) mutants has revealed a complex pathway that is likely to function in particular neurons and/or responding tissues. Here we analyze the genetic interactions between three genes which comprise a branch of the dauer formation pathway that acts in parallel to or downstream of the other branches of the pathway, the Daf-c genes daf-2 and daf-23 and the Daf-d gene daf-16. Unlike mutations in other Daf-c genes, mutations in both daf-2 and daf-23 cause non-conditional arrest at the dauer stage. Our epistasis analysis suggests that daf-2 and daf-23 are functioning at a similar point in the dauer pathway. First, mutations in daf-2 and daf-23 are epistatic to mutations in the same set of Daf-d genes. Second, daf-2 and daf-23 mutants are suppressed by mutations in daf-16. Mutations in daf-16 do not suppress any of the other Daf-c mutants as efficiently as they suppress daf-2 and daf-23 mutants. Third, double mutants between either daf-2 or daf-23 and several other daf-d mutants exhibit an unusual interaction. Based on these results, we present a model for the function of daf-2, daf-23 and daf-16 in dauer formation.