Laminin is a heterotrimeric glycoprotein composed of a , b , and g subunits. The genome sequencing project reveals two a , one b and one g laminin subunit genes. Based on sequence analyses, major features and known binding sites are conserved. The predicted a chains, laminin a A and laminin a B, are most similar to the vertebrate a 1/ a 2 and a 5 chains respectively, while the b and g resemble the b 1/ b 2 and g 1 chains. Thus, there are two predicted laminin trimers, a A bg and a B bg . Mutations in epi-1
, which encodes laminin a B, have been isolated and characterized (abstract ECWM 98). They cause defects that are consistent with the developmental roles for basement membranes (BMs). We report the expression patterns of laminin a A and a B. By immunostaining, both first appear at gastrulation between germ layers. However, laminin a A is heavily deposited anteriorly, surrounding pharygeal precursors, whereas laminin a B is more posteriorly localized. Laminin a B becomes localized to the BMs associated with pharynx, intestine, gonad, body wall, body wall muscle, and muscles throughout development. In contrast, laminin a A accumulates in pharyngeal BM, intestinal BM and body wall muscle BM during elongation and its level in intestinal BM and body wall muscle BM gradually decreases. In larvae and adults, laminin a A is only sometimes detected weakly in pharyngeal BM and body wall muscle BM. It is primarily localized in the spermatheca. Injection of dsRNA directed to epi-1
produces phenotypes similar to those observed in epi-1
alleles and the injection of dsRNA directed to lam3
, which encodes laminin aB, causes L1 larval arrest with severe pharyngeal defects. Double dsRNA-mediated interference directed to both genes produces embryos that arrest at morphogenesis with phenotypes more severe than those caused by the RNAi of either epi-1
alone, indicating that both genes contribute to morphogenesis. Together, our RNAi and immunostaining results indicate that laminin a B has a broad role in maintaining the structural integrity of BMs and for regulating many aspects of morphogenesis, while laminin a A is restricted to specialized membranes and is required for the morphogenesis of specific tissues.