Biochem Soc Trans,
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans contains over 20 genes for TRP (transient receptor potential) channels which include members of all of the subclasses identified in mammalian cells. These proteins include three members of the TRPM (TRP melastatin) family: gon-2
(abnormal gonad development), gtl-1
-like 1) and gtl-2
. Although studies of these genes are at an early stage, we are beginning to understand their functions in the life of C. elegans. Mutations in gon-2
have defective gonad formation because of failures in the cell division of the somatic gonad precursor cells. gon-2
are both expressed in the intestine of the animal. Experiments on gon-2
double mutants show that they have a severe growth defect that is ameliorated by the addition of high levels of Mg(2+) to the growth medium. gon-2
double mutants have defective magnesium homoeostasis and also have altered sensitivity to toxic levels of Ni(2+). Furthermore gon-2
mutants have reduced levels of I(ORCa) (outwardly rectifying calcium current) in the intestinal cells. Thus these two channels appear to play an important role in cation homoeostasis in C. elegans. In addition, perturbing the function of gon-2
disrupts the ultradian defecation rhythm in C. elegans, suggesting that these channels play an important role in regulating this calcium-dependent rhythmic process. The tractability of C. elegans as an experimental animal and its amenability to techniques such as RNAi (RNA interference) and in vivo imaging make it an excellent system for an integrative analysis of TRPM function.
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta,
Proteins belonging to the Bcl-2 family function as regulators of 'life-or-death' decisions in response to various intrinsic and extrinsic stimuli. In mammals, cell death is controlled by pro- and anti-apoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family, which function upstream of the caspase cascade. Structural and functional homologues of the Bcl-2 family proteins also exist in lower eukaryotes, such as nematodes and flies. In nematodes, an anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein, CED-9, functions as a potent cell death inhibitor, and a BH3-only protein, EGL-1, acts as an inhibitor of CED-9 to facilitate the spatio-temporal regulation of programmed cell death. On the other hand, the Drosophila genome encodes two Bcl-2 family proteins, Drob-1/Debcl/dBorg-1/dBok and Buffy/dBorg-2, both of which structurally belong to the pro-apoptotic group, despite abundant similarities in the cell death mechanisms between flies and vertebrates. Drob-1 acts as a pro-apoptotic factor in vitro and in vivo, and Buffy/dBorg-2 exhibits a weak anti-apoptotic function. The ancestral role of the Bcl-2 family protein may be pro-apoptotic, and the evolution of the functions of this family of proteins may be closely linked with the contribution of mitochondria to the cell death pathway.
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans provides numerous experimental advantages for developing an integrative molecular understanding of physiological processes and has proven to be a valuable model for characterizing Ca(2+) signaling mechanisms. This review will focus on the role of Ca(2+) release activated Ca(2+) (CRAC) channel activity in function of the worm gonad and intestine. Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP(3))-dependent oscillatory Ca(2+) signaling regulates contractile activity of the gonad and rhythmic posterior body wall muscle contraction (pBoc) required for ovulation and defecation, respectively. The C. elegans genome contains a single homolog of both STIM1 and Orai1, proteins required for CRAC channel function in mammalian and Drosophila cells. C. elegans STIM-1 and ORAI-1 are coexpressed in the worm gonad and intestine and give rise to robust CRAC channel activity when coexpressed in HEK293 cells. STIM-1 or ORAI-1 knockdown causes complete sterility demonstrating that the genes are essential components of gonad Ca(2+) signaling. Knockdown of either protein dramatically inhibits intestinal cell CRAC channel activity, but surprisingly has no effect on pBoc, intestinal Ca(2+) oscillations or intestinal ER Ca(2+) store homeostasis. CRAC channels thus do not play obligate roles in all IP(3)-dependent signaling processes in C. elegans. Instead, we suggest that CRAC channels carry out highly specialized and cell specific signaling roles and that they may function as a failsafe mechanism to prevent Ca(2+) store depletion under pathophysiological and stress conditions.
Heterotrimeric G proteins, composed of alpha , beta , and gamma subunits, are able to transduce signals from membrane receptors to a wide variety of intracellular effectors. In this role, G proteins effectively function as dimers since the signal is communicated either by the G alpha subunit or the stable G betagamma complex. When inactive, G alpha -GDP associates with G betagamma and the cytoplasmic portion of the receptor. Ligand activation of the receptor stimulates an exchange of GTP for GDP resulting in the active signaling molecules G alpha -GTP and free G betagamma , either of which can interact with effectors. Hydrolysis of GTP restores G alpha -GDP, which then reassociates with G betagamma and receptor to terminate signaling. The rate of G protein activation can be enhanced by the guanine-nucleotide exchange factor, RIC-8 , while the rate of GTP hydrolysis can be enhanced by RGS proteins such as EGL-10 and EAT-16 . Evidence for a receptor-independent G-protein-signaling pathway has been demonstrated in C. elegans early embryogenesis. In this pathway, the G alpha subunits GOA-1 and GPA-16 are apparently activated by the non-transmembrane proteins GPR-1 , GPR-2 , and RIC-8 , and negatively regulated by RGS-7 . The C. elegans genome encodes 21 G alpha , 2 G beta and 2 G gamma subunits. The alpha subunits include one ortholog of each mammalian G alpha family: GSA-1 (Gs), GOA-1 (Gi/o), EGL-30 (Gq) and GPA-12 (G12). The remaining C. elegans alpha subunits ( GPA-1 , GPA-2 , GPA-3 , GPA-4 , GPA-5 , GPA-6 , GPA-7 , GPA-8 , GPA-9 , GPA-10 , GPA-11 , GPA-13 , GPA-14 , GPA-15 , GPA-16 , GPA-17 and ODR-3 ) are most similar to the Gi/o family, but do not share sufficient homology to allow classification. The conserved G alpha subunits, with the exception of GPA-12 , are expressed broadly while 14 of the new G alpha genes are expressed in subsets of chemosensory neurons. Consistent with their expression patterns, the conserved C. elegans alpha subunits, GSA-1 , GOA-1 and EGL-30 are involved in diverse and fundamental aspects of development and behavior. GOA-1 acts redundantly with GPA-16 in positioning of the mitotic spindle in early embryos. EGL-30 and GSA-1 are required for viability starting from the first larval stage. In addition to their roles in development and behaviors such as egg laying and locomotion, the EGL-30 , GSA-1 and GOA-1 pathways interact in a network to regulate acetylcholine release by the ventral cord motor neurons. EGL-30 provides the core signals for vesicle release, GOA-1 negatively regulates the EGL-30 pathway, and GSA-1 modulates this pathway, perhaps by providing positional cues. Constitutively activated GPA-12 affects pharyngeal pumping. The G alpha subunits unique to C. elegans are primarily involved in chemosensation. The G beta subunit, GPB-1 , as well as the G gamma subunit, GPC-2 , appear to function along with the alpha subunits in the classic G protein heterotrimer. The remaining G beta subunit, GPB-2 , is thought to regulate the function of certain RGS proteins, while the remaining G gamma subunit, GPC-1 , has a restricted role in chemosensation. The functional difference for most G protein pathways in C. elegans, therefore, resides in the alpha subunit. Many cells in C. elegans express multiple G alpha subunits, and multiple G protein pathways are known to function in specific cell types. For example, Go, Gq and Gs-mediated signaling occurs in the ventral cord motor neurons. Similarly, certain amphid neurons use multiple G protein pathways to both positively and negatively regulate chemosensation. C. elegans thus provides a powerful model for the study of interactions between and regulation of G protein signaling.
Calcium homeostasis modulator 1 (CALHM1), formerly known as FAM26C, was recently identified as a physiologically important plasma membrane ion channel. CALHM1 and its Caenorhabditis elegans homolog, CLHM-1, are regulated by membrane voltage and extracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)]o). In the presence of physiological [Ca(2+)]o (1.5mM), CALHM1 and CLHM-1 are closed at resting membrane potentials but can be opened by strong depolarizations. Reducing [Ca(2+)]o increases channel open probability, enabling channel activation at negative membrane potentials. Together, voltage and Ca(2+) o allosterically regulate CALHM channel gating. Through convergent evolution, CALHM has structural features that are reminiscent of connexins and pannexins/innexins/LRRC8 (volume-regulated anion channel (VRAC)) gene families, including four transmembrane helices with cytoplasmic amino and carboxyl termini. A CALHM1 channel is a hexamer of CALHM1 monomers with a functional pore diameter of 14A. CALHM channels discriminate poorly among cations and anions, with signaling molecules including Ca(2+) and ATP able to permeate through its pore. CALHM1 is expressed in the brain where it plays an important role in cortical neuron excitability induced by low [Ca(2+)]o and in type II taste bud cells in the tongue that sense sweet, bitter, and umami tastes where it functions as an essential ATP release channel to mediate nonsynaptic neurotransmitter release. CLHM-1 is expressed in C. elegans sensory neurons and body wall muscles, and its genetic deletion causes locomotion defects. Thus, CALHM is a voltage- and Ca(2+) o-gated ion channel, permeable to large cations and anions, that plays important roles in physiology.