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Functional Dissection of Caenorhabditis elegans CLK-2/TEL2 Cell Cycle Defects during Embryogenesis and Germline Development

By Sandra C. Moser, Sophie von Elsner, Ingo Büssing, Arno Alpi, Ralf Schnabel and Anton Gartner


CLK-2/TEL2 is essential for viability from yeasts to vertebrates, but its essential functions remain ill defined. CLK-2/TEL2 was initially implicated in telomere length regulation in budding yeast, but work in Caenorhabditis elegans has uncovered a function in DNA damage response signalling. Subsequently, DNA damage signalling defects associated with CLK-2/TEL2 have been confirmed in yeast and human cells. The CLK-2/TEL2 interaction with the ATM and ATR DNA damage sensor kinases and its requirement for their stability led to the proposal that CLK-2/TEL2 mutants might phenocopy ATM and/or ATR depletion. We use C. elegans to dissect developmental and cell cycle related roles of CLK-2. Temperature sensitive (ts) clk-2 mutants accumulate genomic instability and show a delay of embryonic cell cycle timing. This delay partially depends on the worm p53 homolog CEP-1 and is rescued by co-depletion of the DNA replication checkpoint proteins ATL-1 (C. elegans ATR) and CHK-1. In addition, clk-2 ts mutants show a spindle orientation defect in the eight cell stages that lead to major cell fate transitions. clk-2 deletion worms progress through embryogenesis and larval development by maternal rescue but become sterile and halt germ cell cycle progression. Unlike ATL-1 depleted germ cells, clk-2–null germ cells do not accumulate DNA double-strand breaks. Rather, clk-2 mutant germ cells arrest with duplicated centrosomes but without mitotic spindles in an early prophase like stage. This germ cell cycle arrest does not depend on cep-1, the DNA replication, or the spindle checkpoint. Our analysis shows that CLK-2 depletion does not phenocopy PIKK kinase depletion. Rather, we implicate CLK-2 in multiple developmental and cell cycle related processes and show that CLK-2 and ATR have antagonising functions during early C. elegans embryonic development

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