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The sumoylation (SUMO) pathway is involved in a variety of processes during C. elegans development, such as gonadal and vulval fate specification, cell cycle progression and maintenance of chromosome structure. The ubiquitous expression and pleiotropic effects have made it difficult to dissect the tissue-specific functions of the SUMO pathway and identify its target proteins. To overcome these challenges, we have established tools to block protein sumoylation and degrade sumoylated target proteins in a tissue-specific and temporally controlled manner. We employed the auxin-inducible protein degradation system (AID) to down-regulate the SUMO E3 ligase GEI-17 or the SUMO ortholog SMO-1, either in the vulval precursor cells (VPCs) or in the gonadal anchor cell (AC). Our results indicate that the SUMO pathway acts in multiple tissues to control different aspects of vulval development, such as AC positioning, basement membrane (BM) breaching, VPC fate specification and morphogenesis. Inhibition of protein sumoylation in the VPCs resulted in abnormal toroid formation and ectopic cell fusions during vulval morphogenesis. In particular, sumoylation of the ETS transcription factor LIN-1 at K169 is necessary for the proper contraction of the ventral vulA toroids. Thus, the SUMO pathway plays several distinct roles throughout vulval development.


Aleksandra Fergin, Gabriel Boesch, Nadja R Greter, Simon Berger, Alex Hajnal. Tissue-specific inhibition of protein sumoylation uncovers diverse SUMO functions during C. elegans vulval development. PLoS genetics. 2022 Jun;18(6):e1009978

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PMID: 35666766

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