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Paper Chase

Polygenic control of Caenorhabditis elegans fat storage.

Nat. Genet.. 02 05, 2006;38(3):363-8.
Mak HY, Nelson LS, Basson M, Johnson CD, Ruvkun G.

Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


Tubby mice and individuals with Bardet-Biedl syndrome have defects in ciliated neuron function and obesity, suggesting an as-yet unknown metabolic signaling axis from ciliated neurons to fat storage tissues. Here we show coordinate regulation of Caenorhabditis elegans fat storage by orthologues of these genes acting in ciliated neurons and by a 3-ketoacyl-coA thiolase (encoded by kat-1) that acts in fat storage tissue. A genetic screen for markedly enhanced fat storage in tub-1 mutants led to the isolation only of kat-1 alleles, which impair fatty acid beta-oxidation. kat-1 acts in the intestine, the major C. elegans fat storage tissue, and is transcriptionally upregulated in animals with high fat storage. A genetic screen for synergistic increase in fat storage of a kat-1 mutant identified bbs-1. bbs-1 acts in 15 ciliated neurons that are poised to sense external and internal nutrient levels, supporting a model in which bbs-1 and tub-1 in ciliated neurons form part of an ancient, conserved neuroendocrine axis. This pathway also includes genes encoding intraflagellar transport proteins and cyclic nucleotide gated channels, demonstrating that C. elegans fat storage is under polygenic control.