The roles of two C. elegans HOX co-factor orthologs in cell migration and vulva development.
Anteroposterior cell migration and patterning in C. elegans are governed by multiple, interacting signaling pathways and transcription factors. In this study, we have investigated the role of ceh-20, the C. elegans ortholog of the HOX co-factor Extradenticle (Exd/Pbx), and unc-62, the C. elegans ortholog of Homothorax (Hth/Meis/Prep), in two processes that are regulated by Hox gene lin-39: cell migration and vulva formation. As in lin-39 mutants, the anterior migrations of neuroblasts in the Q lineage are truncated in Hox co-factor mutants. Surprisingly, though, our findings suggested that the roles of ceh-20 and unc-62 are different from that of lin-39; specifically, ceh-20 and unc-62 but not lin-39 are required for the transmembrane protein MIG-13 to promote anterior migration. To our knowledge, ceh-20 and unc-62 are the only genes that have been implicated in the mig-13 pathway. We find that ceh-20 and unc-62 are also required for several steps in vulva development. Surprisingly, ceh-20 and unc-62 mutants have phenotypes that are starkly different from those of lin-39 mutants. Thus, in this process, too, ceh-20 and unc-62 are likely to have functions that are independent of lin-39.