Functional transcriptomic analysis of the role of MAB-5/Hox in Q neuroblast migration in Caenorhabditis elegans
Department of Molecular Biosciences, Programs in Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, The University of Kansas, 1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence KS 66045, USA
BMC Genomics 2013, 14:304 doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-304Published: 4 May 2013
Directed cell migration is a fundamental process in normal development and in tumor metastasis. In C. elegans the MAB-5/Hox transcription factor is a determinant of posterior migration of the Q neuroblast descendants. In this work, mab-5 transcriptional targets that control Q descendant migration are identified by comparing RNA-seq profiles in wild type and mab-5 mutant backgrounds.
Transcriptome profiling is a widely-used and potent tool to identify genes involved in developmental and pathological processes, and is most informative when RNA can be isolated from individual cell or tissue types. Cell-specific RNA samples can be difficult to obtain from invertebrate model organisms such as Drosophila and C. elegans. Here we test the utility of combining a whole organism RNA-seq approach with mab-5 loss and gain-of-function mutants and functional validation using RNAi to identify genes regulated by MAB-5 to control Q descendant migration. We identified 22 genes whose expression was controlled by mab-5 and that controlled Q descendant migration. Genes regulated by mab-5 were enriched for secreted and transmembrane molecules involved in basement membrane interaction and modification, and some affected Q descendant migration.
Our results indicate that a whole-organism RNA-seq approach, when combined with mutant analysis and functional validation, can be a powerful method to identify genes involved in a specific developmental process, in this case Q descendant posterior migration. These genes could act either autonomously in the Q cells, or non-autonomously in other cells that express MAB-5. The identities of the genes regulated by MAB-5 indicate that MAB-5 acts by modifying interactions with the basement membrane, resulting in posterior versus anterior migration.