Indexed on: 17 Apr '09Published on: 17 Apr '09Published in: Mechanisms of Development
Proper coordination of oogenesis, ovulation, and fertilization is essential for successful reproduction. In Caenorhabditis elegans, a strong loss-of-function mutation in dpl-1, which encodes a subunit of the E2F heterodimeric transcription factor EFL-1/DPL-1, causes severe defects during ovulation and fertilization. Here we demonstrate that the somatic gonad structure and sheath cell contraction rate appear normal in dpl-1 mutants, but that dilation of the spermatheca valve does not occur properly, causing oocytes to become trapped in the proximal gonad arm and enter endomitosis. This ovulation defect can be partially suppressed by increasing the activity of ITR-1, an inositol triphosphate receptor in the spermatheca that promotes dilation in response to IP(3) signaling. Tissue-specific rescue experiments demonstrate that expression of DPL-1 in germ cells but not the spermatheca can restore both ovulation and fertilization in dpl-1 mutants, indicating that the absence of DPL-1 likely disrupts a pro-ovulation signal originating in the oocyte that in turn stimulates the spermatheca. Moreover, we found that expression of a single EFL-1/DPL-1-responsive gene, rme-2, in the germ line of dpl-1 mutants significantly rescues ovulation, but not fertilization. Instead, other EFL-1/DPL-1-responsive genes function to promote successful fertilization. We propose that DPL-1 acts with EFL-1 in developing oocytes to directly regulate a transcriptional program that couples the critical events of ovulation and fertilization.