Polarity-Dependent Asymmetric Distribution and MEX-5/6-Mediated Translational Activation of the Era-1 mRNA in C. elegans Embryos
The early C. elegans embryo is an attractive model system to investigate fundamental developmental processes. With the exception of mex-3 mRNA, maternally contributed mRNAs are thought to be distributed uniformly in the one-cell embryo. Here, we report and characterize the striking distribution of the mRNA encoding the novel protein ERA-1. We found that era-1 mRNA is enriched in the anterior of the one-cell embryo and present solely in anterior blastomeres thereafter. Although era-1 is not an essential gene, we uncovered that era-1 null mutant embryos are sensitive to slight impairment of embryonic polarity. We found that the asymmetric distribution of era-1 mRNA depends on anterior-posterior polarity cues and on the era-1 3'UTR. Similarly to the era-1 mRNA, the YFP-ERA-1 protein is enriched in anterior blastomeres. Interestingly, we found that the RNA-binding protein MEX-5 is required for era-1 mRNA asymmetry. Furthermore, we show that MEX-5, together with its partially redundant partner MEX-6, are needed to activate era-1 mRNA translation in anterior blastomeres. These findings lead us to propose that MEX-5/6-mediated regulation of era-1 mRNA contributes to robust embryonic development.