Distinct roles of the Pumilio and FBF translational repressors during C. elegans vulval development.
beta-catenins are conserved transcription factors regulated posttranslationally by Wnt signaling. bar-1 encodes a Caenorhabditis elegans beta-catenin acting in multiple Wnt-mediated processes, including cell fate specification by vulval precursor cells (VPCs) and migration of the Q(L) neuroblast progeny. We took two approaches to extend our knowledge of bar-1 function. First, we undertook a bar-1 promoter analysis using transcriptional GFP reporter fusions and found that bar-1 expression is regulated in specific cells at the transcriptional level. We identified promoter elements necessary for bar-1 expression in several cell types, including a 321-bp element sufficient for expression in ventral cord neurons (VCNs) and a 1.1-kb element sufficient for expression in the developing vulva and adult seam cells. Expression of bar-1 from the 321-bp element rescued the Uncoordinated (Unc) phenotype of bar-1 mutants, but not the vulval phenotype, suggesting that a Wnt pathway may act in ventral cord neurons to mediate proper locomotion. By comparison of the 1.1-kb element to homologous sequences from Caenorhabditis briggsae, we identified evolutionarily conserved sequences necessary for expression in vulval or seam cells. Second, we analyzed 24 mutations in bar-1 and identified several residues required for BAR-1 activity in C. elegans. By phylogenetic comparison, we found that most of these residues are conserved and may identify amino acids necessary for beta-catenin function in all species.