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Open Access Research article

The eggshell is required for meiotic fidelity, polar-body extrusion and polarization of the C. elegans embryo

Wendy L Johnston1, Aldis Krizus1 and James W Dennis12*

Author Affiliations

1 Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, 600 University Ave. Toronto, ON, M5G 1X5, Canada

2 Department of Medical Genetics & Microbiology, University of Toronto, ON, Canada

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BMC Biology 2006, 4:35  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-4-35

Published: 16 October 2006

Abstract

Background

Fertilization restores the diploid state and begins the process by which the single-cell oocyte is converted into a polarized, multicellular organism. In the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, two of the earliest events following fertilization are secretion of the chitinous eggshell and completion of meiosis, and in this report we demonstrate that the eggshell is essential for multiple developmental events at the one-cell stage.

Results

We show that the GLD (Germline differentiation abnormal)-1-regulated hexosamine pathway enzyme, glucosamine-6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase (GNA)-2, is required for synthesis of uridine diphosphate-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc), the substrate for eggshell chitin synthesis by chitin synthase-1 (CHS-1). Furthermore, while chs-1(RNAi) or combined RNAi with the chitin-binding proteins, CEJ-1 and B0280.5, does not interfere with normal meiotic timing, lagging chromosomes are observed at meiosis, and polar-body extrusion fails. We also demonstrate that chitin, and either CEJ-1 or B0280.5, are essential for the osmotic/permeability barrier and for movement of the sperm pronucleus/centrosome complex to the cortex, which is associated with the initiation of polarization.

Conclusion

Our results indicate that the eggshell is required in single-cell C. elegans development, playing an essential role in multiple actin-dependent early events. Furthermore, the earliest meiotic roles precede osmotic barrier formation, indicating that the role of the eggshell is not limited to generation of the osmotic barrier.