The need to regulate X chromosome expression in Caenorhabditis elegans arises as a consequence of the primary sex-determining signal, the X/A ratio (the ratio of X chromosomes to sets of autosomes), which directs 1X@A animals to develop as males and 2X/2A animals to develop as hermaphrodites. C. elegans possesses a dosage compensation mechanism that equalizes X chromosome expression between the two sexes despite their disparity in X chromosome dosage. Previous genetic analysis led to the identification of four autosomal genes, dpy-21, dpy-26, dpy-27 and dpy-28, whose products are essential in XX animals for proper dosage compensation, but not for sex determination. We report the identification and characterization of dpy-30, an essential component of the dosage compensation machinery. Putative null mutations in dpy-30 disrupt dosage compensation and cause a severe maternal-effect, XX-specific lethality. Rare survivors of the dpy-30 lethality are dumpy and express their X-linked genes at higher than wild-type levels. These dpy-30 mutant phenotypes superficially resemble those caused by mutations in dpy-26, dpy-27 and dpy-28; however, detailed phenotypic analysis reveals important differences that distinguish dpy-30 from these genes. In contrast to the XX-specific lethality caused by mutations in the other dpy genes, the XX-specific lethality caused by dpy-30 mutations is completely penetrant and temperature sensitive. In addition, unlike the other genes, dpy-30 is required for the normal development of XO animals. Although dpy-30 mutations do not significantly affect the viability of XO animals, they do cause them to be developmentally delayed and to possess numerous morphological and behavioral abnormalities. Finally, dpy-30 mutations can dramatically influence the choice of sexual fate in animals with an ambiguous sexual identity, despite having no apparent effect on the sexual phenotype of otherwise wild-type animals. Paradoxically, depending on the genetic background, dpy-30 mutations cause either masculinization or feminization, thus revealing the complex regulatory relationship between the sex determination and dosage compensation processes. The novel phenotypes caused by dpy-30 mutations suggest that in addition to acting in the dosage compensation process, dpy-30 may play a more general role in the development of both XX and XO animals.
- Copyright © 1994 by the Genetics Society of America