The complete family of genes encoding G proteins of Caenorhabditis elegans

Gert Jansen, Karen L. Thijssen, Pia Werner, Marieke Van Der Horst, Esther Hazendonk, Ronald H.A. Plasterk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

249 Citations (Scopus)


Caenorhabditis elegans is the first animal whose genomic sequence has been determined. One of the new possibilities in post-sequence genetics is the analysis of complete gene families at once. We studied the family of heterotrimeric G proteins. C elegans has 20 Gα, 2 Gβ and 2 Gγ genes. There is 1 homologue of each of the 4 mammalian classes of Gα genes, Gi/Goα, Gsα, Gqα and G12α, and there are 16 new α genes. Although the conserved Gα subunits are expressed in many neurons and muscle cells, GFP fusions indicate that 14 new Gα genes are expressed almost exclusively in a small subset of the chemosensory neurons of C. elegans. We generated loss- of-function alleles using target-selected gene inactivation. None of the amphid-expressed genes are essential for viability, and only four show any detectable phenotype (chemotaxis defects), suggesting extensive functional redundancy. On the basis of functional analysis, the 20 genes encoding Gα proteins can be divided into two groups: those that encode subunits affecting muscle activity (homologues of Gi/Goα, Gsα and Gq; refs 3-6), and those (14 new genes) that encode proteins most likely involved in perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-419
Number of pages6
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
strains; C. de Vries for help with behavioural assays; S. Wicks for help with statistical analyses and behavioural assays; and C. van den Berg, P. Borst, R. Korswagen and S. Wicks for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by grant NKI 94-809 from the Netherlands Cancer Foundation, by grant NWO-GMW 90104094 from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, by grant 940-70-008 from the New Drugs Research Foundation to R.H.A.P., and by a Biotechnology Research Training Grant from the European Commission (BIO4CT965072) to P.W.


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