Genetic Screens for Caenorhabditis elegans Mutants Defective in Left/Right Asymmetric Neuronal Fate Specification
Sumeet Sarin, M. Maggie O'Meara, Eileen B. Flowers, Celia Antonio, Richard J. Poole, Dominic Didiano, Robert J. Johnston, Jr., Sarah Chang, Surinder Narula, Oliver Hobert


We describe here the results of genetic screens for Caenorhabditis elegans mutants in which a single neuronal fate decision is inappropriately executed. In wild-type animals, the two morphologically bilaterally symmetric gustatory neurons ASE left (ASEL) and ASE right (ASER) undergo a left/right asymmetric diversification in cell fate, manifested by the differential expression of a class of putative chemoreceptors and neuropeptides. Using single cell-specific gfp reporters and screening through a total of almost 120,000 haploid genomes, we isolated 161 mutants that define at least six different classes of mutant phenotypes in which ASEL/R fate is disrupted. Each mutant phenotypic class encompasses one to nine different complementation groups. Besides many alleles of 10 previously described genes, we have identified at least 16 novel “lsy” genes (“laterally symmetric”). Among mutations in known genes, we retrieved four alleles of the miRNA lsy-6 and a gain-of-function mutation in the 3′-UTR of a target of lsy-6, the cog-1 homeobox gene. Using newly found temperature-sensitive alleles of cog-1, we determined that a bistable feedback loop controlling ASEL vs. ASER fate, of which cog-1 is a component, is only transiently required to initiate but not to maintain ASEL and ASER fate. Taken together, our mutant screens identified a broad catalog of genes whose molecular characterization is expected to provide more insight into the complex genetic architecture of a left/right asymmetric neuronal cell fate decision.


  • 1 These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Communicating editor: D. I. Greenstein

  • Received May 7, 2007.
  • Accepted June 4, 2007.
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