ROP-1, an RNA quality-control pathway component, affects Caenorhabditis elegans dauer formation.
Caenorhabditis elegans dauer formation is an alternative larval developmental pathway that the worm can take when environmental conditions become detrimental. Animals can survive several months in this stress-resistant stage and can resume normal development when growth conditions improve. Although the worms integrate a variety of sensory information to commit to dauer formation, it is currently unknown whether they also monitor internal cellular damage. The Ro ribonucleoprotein complex, which was initially described as a human autoantigen, is composed of one major 60-kDa protein, Ro60, that binds to one of four small RNA molecules, designated Y RNAs. Ro60 has been shown to bind mutant 5S rRNA molecules in Xenopus oocytes, suggesting a role for Ro60 in 5S rRNA biogenesis. Analysis of ribosomes from a C. elegans rop-1(-) strain, which is null for the expression of Ro60, demonstrated that they contain a high percentage of mutant 5S rRNA molecules, thereby strengthening the notion of a link between the rop-1 gene product and 5S rRNA quality control. The Ro particle was recently shown to be involved in the resistance of Deinococcus radiodurans to UV irradiation, suggesting a role for the Ro complex in stress resistance. We have studied the role of rop-1 in dauer formation. We present genetic and biochemical evidence that rop-1 interacts with dauer-formation genes and is involved in the regulation of the worms’ entry into the dauer stage. Furthermore, we find that the rop-1 gene product undergoes a proteolytic processing step that is regulated by the dauer formation pathway via an aspartic proteinase. These results suggest that the Ro particle may function in an RNA quality-control checkpoint for dauer formation.