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The short coiled-coil domain-containing protein UNC-69 cooperates with UNC-76 to regulate axonal outgrowth and normal presynaptic organization in Caenorhabditis elegans

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Author(s): Su Cheng-Wen | Tharin Suzanne | Jin Yishi | Wightman Bruce | Spector Mona | Meili David | Tsung Nancy | Rhiner Christa | Bourikas Dimitris | Stoeckli Esther | Garriga Gian | Horvitz H Robert | Hengartner Michael

Journal: Journal of Biology
ISSN 1478-5854

Volume: 5;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2006;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been used extensively to identify the genetic requirements for proper nervous system development and function. Key to this process is the direction of vesicles to the growing axons and dendrites, which is required for growth-cone extension and synapse formation in the developing neurons. The contribution and mechanism of membrane traffic in neuronal development are not fully understood, however. Results We show that the C. elegans gene unc-69 is required for axon outgrowth, guidance, fasciculation and normal presynaptic organization. We identify UNC-69 as an evolutionarily conserved 108-amino-acid protein with a short coiled-coil domain. UNC-69 interacts physically with UNC-76, mutations in which produce similar defects to loss of unc-69 function. In addition, a weak reduction-of-function allele, unc-69(ju69), preferentially causes mislocalization of the synaptic vesicle marker synaptobrevin. UNC-69 and UNC-76 colocalize as puncta in neuronal processes and cooperate to regulate axon extension and synapse formation. The chicken UNC-69 homolog is highly expressed in the developing central nervous system, and its inactivation by RNA interference leads to axon guidance defects. Conclusion We have identified a novel protein complex, composed of UNC-69 and UNC-76, which promotes axonal growth and normal presynaptic organization in C. elegans. As both proteins are conserved through evolution, we suggest that the mammalian homologs of UNC-69 and UNC-76 (SCOCO and FEZ, respectively) may function similarly.
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