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Science 335 (6071): 970-973

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Control of Nonapoptotic Developmental Cell Death in Caenorhabditis elegans by a Polyglutamine-Repeat Protein

Elyse S. Blum, Mary C. Abraham, Satoshi Yoshimura, Yun Lu, Shai Shaham*

Abstract: Death is a vital developmental cell fate. In Caenorhabditis elegans, programmed death of the linker cell, which leads gonadal elongation, proceeds independently of caspases and apoptotic effectors. To identify genes promoting linker-cell death, we performed a genome-wide RNA interference screen. We show that linker-cell death requires the gene pqn-41, encoding an endogenous polyglutamine-repeat protein. pqn-41 functions cell-autonomously and is expressed at the onset of linker-cell death. pqn-41 expression is controlled by the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase SEK-1, which functions in parallel to the zinc-finger protein LIN-29 to promote cellular demise. Linker-cell death is morphologically similar to cell death associated with normal vertebrate development and polyglutamine-induced neurodegeneration. Our results may therefore provide molecular inroads to understanding nonapoptotic cell death in metazoan development and disease.

Laboratory of Developmental Genetics, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065 USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail shaham{at}

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