We report molecular genetic studies of three genes involved in early germ-line proliferation in Caenorhabditis elegans that lend unexpected insight into a germ-line/soma functional separation of autosomal/ X-linked duplicated gene pairs. In a genetic screen for germ-line proliferation-defective mutants, we identified mutations in rpl-11.1 (L11 protein of the large ribosomal subunit), pab-1 [a poly(A)-binding protein], and glp-3/eft-3 (an elongation factor 1-α homolog). All three are members of autosome/X gene pairs. Consistent with a germ-line-restricted function of rpl-11.1 and pab-1, mutations in these genes extend life span and cause gigantism. We further examined the RNAi phenotypes of the three sets of rpl genes (rpl-11, rpl-24, and rpl-25) and found that for the two rpl genes with autosomal/X-linked pairs (rpl-11 and rpl-25), zygotic germ-line function is carried by the autosomal copy. Available RNAi results for highly conserved autosomal/X-linked gene pairs suggest that other duplicated genes may follow a similar trend. The three rpl and the pab-1/2 duplications predate the divergence between C. elegans and C. briggsae, while the eft-3/4 duplication appears to have occurred in the lineage to C. elegans after it diverged from C. briggsae. The duplicated C. briggsae orthologs of the three C. elegans autosomal/X-linked gene pairs also display functional differences between paralogs. We present hypotheses for evolutionary mechanisms that may underlie germ-line/soma subfunctionalization of duplicated genes, taking into account the role of X chromosome silencing in the germ line and analogous mammalian phenomena.
ASJC Scopus subject areas