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MLT-10 Defines a Family of DUF644 and Proline-rich Repeat Proteins Involved in the Molting Cycle of Caenorhabditis elegans


The molting cycle of nematodes involves the periodic synthesis and removal of a collagen-rich exoskeleton, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we describe the mlt-10 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans, which emerged from a genetic screen for molting-defective mutants sensitized by low cholesterol. MLT-10 defines a large family of nematode-specific proteins comprised of DUF644 and tandem P-X(2)-L-(S/T)-P repeats. Conserved nuclear hormone receptors promote expression of the mlt-10 gene in the hypodermis whenever the exoskeleton is remade. Further, a MLT-10::mCherry fusion protein is released from the hypodermis to the surrounding matrices and fluids during molting. The fusion protein is also detected in strands near the surface of animals. Both loss-of-function and gain-of-function mutations of mlt-10 impede the removal of old cuticles. However, the substitution mutation mlt-10(mg364), which disrupts the proline-rich repeats, causes the most severe phenotype. Mutations of mlt-10 are also associated with abnormalities in the exoskeleton and improper development of the epidermis. Thus, mlt-10 encodes a secreted protein involved in three distinct but interconnected aspects of the molting cycle. We propose that the molting cycle of C. elegans involves the dynamic assembly and disassembly of MLT-10 and possibly the paralogs of MLT-10.

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