The small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) is required for gonadal and uterine-vulval morphogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans
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The small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) modification alters the subcellular distribution and function of its substrates. Here we show the major role of SUMO during the development of the Caenorhabditis elegans reproductive system. smo-1 deletion mutants develop into sterile adults with abnormal somatic gonad, germ line, and vulva. SMO-1::GFP reporter is highly expressed in the somatic reproductive system. smo-1 animals lack a vulval-uterine connection as a result of impaired ventral uterine pi-cell differentiation and anchor cell fusion. Mutations in the LIN-11 LIM domain transcription factor lead to a uterine phenotype that resembles the smo-1 phenotype. LIN-11 is sumoylated, and its sumoylation is required for its activity during uterine morphogenesis. Expression of a SUMO-modified LIN-11 in the smo-1 background partially rescued pi-cell differentiation and retained LIN-11 in nuclear bodies. Thus, our results identify the reproductive system as the major SUMO target during postembryonic development and highlight LIN-11 as a physiological substrate whose sumoylation is associated with the formation of a functional vulval-uterine connection.
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