Author(s): An JH, Blackwell TK
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Abstract During the earliest stages of Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis, the transcription factor SKN-1 initiates development of the digestive system and other mesendodermal tissues. Postembryonic SKN-1 functions have not been elucidated. SKN-1 binds to DNA through a unique mechanism, but is distantly related to basic leucine-zipper proteins that orchestrate the major oxidative stress response in vertebrates and yeast. Here we show that despite its distinct mode of target gene recognition, SKN-1 functions similarly to resist oxidative stress in C. elegans. During postembryonic stages, SKN-1 regulates a key Phase II detoxification gene through constitutive and stress-inducible mechanisms in the ASI chemosensory neurons and intestine, respectively. SKN-1 is present in ASI nuclei under normal conditions, and accumulates in intestinal nuclei in response to oxidative stress. skn-1 mutants are sensitive to oxidative stress and have shortened lifespans. SKN-1 represents a connection between developmental specification of the digestive system and one of its most basic functions, resistance to oxidative and xenobiotic stress. This oxidative stress response thus appears to be both widely conserved and ancient, suggesting that the mesendodermal specification role of SKN-1 was predated by its function in these detoxification mechanisms.
This article was published in Genes Dev
and referenced in Neurochemistry & Neuropharmacology