During Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis the primordial germ cell, P-4, is generated via a series of unequal divisions, These divisions produce germline blastomeres (P-1, P-2, P-3, P4) that differ from their somatic sisters in their size, fate and cytoplasmic content (e.g. germ granules), mes-1
mutant embryos display the striking phenotype of transformation of P-4 into a muscle precursor, like its somatic sister. A loss of polarity in P-2 and P-3 cell-specific events underlies the Mes-1 phenotype, In mes-1
embryos, P-2 and P-3 undergo symmetric divisions and partition germ granules to both daughters. This paper shows that mes-1
encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase-like protein, though it lacks several residues conserved in all kinases and therefore is predicted not to have kinase activity. Immunolocalization analysis shows that MES-1 is present in four- to 24-cell embryos, where it is localized in a crescent at the junction between the germline cell and its neighboring gut cell. This is the region of P-2 and P-3 to which the spindle and P granules must move to ensure normal division asymmetry and cytoplasmic partitioning. Indeed, during early stages of mitosis in P-2 and P-3, one centrosome is positioned adjacent to the MES-1 crescent. Staining of isolated blastomeres demonstrated that MES-1 was present in the membrane of the germline blastomeres, consistent with a cell-autonomous function. Analysis of MES-1 distribution in various cell-fate and patterning mutants suggests that its localization is not dependent on the correct fate of either the germline or the gut blastomere but is dependent upon correct spatial organization of the embryo. Our results suggest that MES-1 directly positions the developing mitotic spindle and its associated P granules within P-2 and P-3, or provides an orientation signal for P-2- and P-3-specific events.