During nervous system development, neurons and their progenitors migrate to their final destinations. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the bilateral Q neuroblasts and their descendants migrate long distances in opposite directions, despite being born in the same posterior region. QR on the right migrates anteriorly and generates the AQR neuron positioned near the head, and QL on the left migrates posteriorly, giving rise to the PQR neuron positioned near the tail. In a screen for genes required for AQR and PQR migration, we identified an allele of nfm-1, which encodes a molecule similar to vertebrate NF2/Merlin, an important tumor suppressor in humans. Mutations in NF2 lead to neurofibromatosis type II, characterized by benign tumors of glial tissues. Here we demonstrate that in C. elegans, nfm-1 is required for the ability of Q cells and their descendants to extend protrusions and to migrate, but is not required for direction of migration. Using a combination of mosaic analysis and cell-specific expression, we show that NFM-1 is required nonautonomously, possibly in muscles, to promote Q lineage migrations. We also show a genetic interaction between nfm-1 and the C. elegans Slit homolog slt-1, which encodes a conserved secreted guidance cue. Our results suggest that NFM-1 might be involved in the generation of an extracellular cue that promotes Q neuroblast protrusion and migration that acts with or in parallel to SLT-1. In vertebrates, NF2 and Slit2 interact in axon pathfinding, suggesting a conserved interaction of NF2 and Slit2 in regulating migratory events.
- Received May 23, 2016.
- Accepted November 23, 2016.
- Copyright © 2017 by the Genetics Society of America