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Gene Review

unc-52  -  Protein UNC-52

Caenorhabditis elegans

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High impact information on unc-52

  • Twelve mutants in the unc-52 II gene exhibit markedly retarded sarcomere construction and progressive paralysis [1].
  • Several unc-52 mutants, such as the severely paralyzed SU200, produced only 2--3 sarcomeres per body-wall muscle cell, while the other mildly paralyzed unc-52 mutants, such as SU250, build 3--4 sarcomeres per muscle cell [1].
  • The unc-52 body-wall sarcomeres become moderately disorganized as they are outstripped by cell growth; sufficient order is preserved, however, so that the majority of thick and thin filaments still interdigitate [1].
  • The first domain is unique to the unc-52 polypeptide, whereas the three remaining domains contain sequences found in the LDL receptor (domain II) laminin (domain III) and N-CAM (domain IV) [2].
  • Here, we demonstrate that the unc-52 gene encodes a nematode homolog of perlecan, the mammalian basement membrane heparan sulfate proteoglycan [2].

Biological context of unc-52

  • We propose that smu-1 encodes a trans-acting factor that regulates the alternative splicing of the pre-mRNA of unc-52 and other genes [3].
  • We show that a presumptive null mutation in smu-1 suppresses nonsense mutations in exon 17 but not exon 18 of unc-52 and enhances the phenotype conferred by an unc-52 splice site mutation in intron 16 [3].
  • Mutations in the unc-52 gene responsible for body wall muscle defects in adult Caenorhabditis elegans are located in alternatively spliced exons [4].
  • Previous work has shown that C. elegans MEC-8 is a putative RNA-binding protein that promotes specific alternative splices of unc-52 transcripts. unc-52 encodes homologs of mammalian perlecan that are located extracellularly between muscle and hypodermis and are essential for muscle development in both embryos and larvae [5].
  • The unc-52 gene plays an essential role in myofilament assembly in body-wall muscle during embryonic development [6].

Anatomical context of unc-52

  • Mutations in the unc-52 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans affect attachment of the myofilament lattice to the muscle cell membrane [2].
  • The effects of unc-52 mutations on DTC migrations are distinct from effects on myofilament organization and can be partially suppressed by mutations in several genes encoding growth factor-like molecules, including EGL-17/FGF, UNC-129/TGF-beta, DBL-1/TGF-beta, and EGL-20/WNT [7].
  • We have also found that overexpression of MEC-8 in hypodermis but not muscle can suppress certain unc-52 mutant phenotypes [5].
  • The unc-52 gene encodes the nematode homologue of mammalian perlecan, the major heparan sulfate proteoglycan of the extracellular matrix [8].

Regulatory relationships of unc-52

  • We have used reverse transcription-PCR and RNase protection experiments to show that mec-8 regulates the accumulation of a specific subset of alternatively spliced unc-52 transcripts [9].

Other interactions of unc-52

  • Analysis of smu-1, a gene that regulates the alternative splicing of unc-52 pre-mRNA in Caenorhabditis elegans [3].
  • Mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans gene smu-2 suppress mec-8 and unc-52 mutations [10].
  • In strains which are chronically starved as a result of mutations which compromise feeding behaviour (unc-52) or nutrient uptake into the intestinal cells (daf-4), cathepsin D levels are decreased to about 15% of the level in fully fed wild-type animals [11].
  • The suppression pattern of the suppressor against the two muscle-affecting genes, unc-15 and unc-52, suggested that either the suppressors are expressed in a developmental stage-specific manner or that the unc-52 products are expressed in cell-types other than muscle, possibly hypodermis [12].


  1. Muscle development in Caenorhabditis elegans: mutants exhibiting retarded sarcomere construction. Mackenzie, J.M., Garcea, R.L., Zengel, J.M., Epstein, H.F. Cell (1978) [Pubmed]
  2. Products of the unc-52 gene in Caenorhabditis elegans are homologous to the core protein of the mammalian basement membrane heparan sulfate proteoglycan. Rogalski, T.M., Williams, B.D., Mullen, G.P., Moerman, D.G. Genes Dev. (1993) [Pubmed]
  3. Analysis of smu-1, a gene that regulates the alternative splicing of unc-52 pre-mRNA in Caenorhabditis elegans. Spike, C.A., Shaw, J.E., Herman, R.K. Mol. Cell. Biol. (2001) [Pubmed]
  4. Mutations in the unc-52 gene responsible for body wall muscle defects in adult Caenorhabditis elegans are located in alternatively spliced exons. Rogalski, T.M., Gilchrist, E.J., Mullen, G.P., Moerman, D.G. Genetics (1995) [Pubmed]
  5. MEC-8 regulates alternative splicing of unc-52 transcripts in C. elegans hypodermal cells. Spike, C.A., Davies, A.G., Shaw, J.E., Herman, R.K. Development (2002) [Pubmed]
  6. UNC-52/perlecan isoform diversity and function in Caenorhabditis elegans. Rogalski, T.M., Mullen, G.P., Bush, J.A., Gilchrist, E.J., Moerman, D.G. Biochem. Soc. Trans. (2001) [Pubmed]
  7. UNC-52/perlecan affects gonadal leader cell migrations in C. elegans hermaphrodites through alterations in growth factor signaling. Merz, D.C., Alves, G., Kawano, T., Zheng, H., Culotti, J.G. Dev. Biol. (2003) [Pubmed]
  8. Complex patterns of alternative splicing mediate the spatial and temporal distribution of perlecan/UNC-52 in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mullen, G.P., Rogalski, T.M., Bush, J.A., Gorji, P.R., Moerman, D.G. Mol. Biol. Cell (1999) [Pubmed]
  9. The mec-8 gene of C. elegans encodes a protein with two RNA recognition motifs and regulates alternative splicing of unc-52 transcripts. Lundquist, E.A., Herman, R.K., Rogalski, T.M., Mullen, G.P., Moerman, D.G., Shaw, J.E. Development (1996) [Pubmed]
  10. SMU-2 and SMU-1, Caenorhabditis elegans homologs of mammalian spliceosome-associated proteins RED and fSAP57, work together to affect splice site choice. Spartz, A.K., Herman, R.K., Shaw, J.E. Mol. Cell. Biol. (2004) [Pubmed]
  11. Regulation of proteinase levels in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Preferential depression by acute or chronic starvation. Hawdon, J.M., Emmons, S.W., Jacobson, L.A. Biochem. J. (1989) [Pubmed]
  12. Genetic and molecular analysis of eight tRNA(Trp) amber suppressors in Caenorhabditis elegans. Kondo, K., Makovec, B., Waterston, R.H., Hodgkin, J. J. Mol. Biol. (1990) [Pubmed]
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