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Identification of ciliary and ciliopathy genes in Caenorhabditis elegans through comparative genomics Chen, Nansheng; Mah, Allan; Blacque, Oliver E; Chu, Jeffrey; Phgora, Kiran; Bakhoum, Mathieu W; Hunt Newbury, C R; Khattra, Jaswinder; Chan, Susanna; Go, Anne; Efimenko, Evgeni; Johnsen, Robert; Phirke, Prasad; Swoboda, Peter; Marra, Marco; Moerman, Donald G; Leroux, Michel R; Baillie, David L; Stein, Lincoln D Dec 22, 2006

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commentreviewsreportsdeposited researchrefereed researchinteractionsinformatioOpen Access2006Chenet al.Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126ResearchIdentification of ciliary and ciliopathy genes in Caenorhabditis elegans through comparative genomicsNansheng Chen*†, Allan Mah†, Oliver E Blacque†‡, Jeffrey Chu†, Kiran Phgora†, Mathieu W Bakhoum†, C Rebecca Hunt Newbury§, Jaswinder Khattra§, Susanna Chan§, Anne Go§, Evgeni Efimenko¶, Robert Johnsen†, Prasad Phirke¶, Peter Swoboda¶, Marco Marra¥, Donald G Moerman§, Michel R Leroux†, David L Baillie† and Lincoln D Stein*Addresses: *Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York 11724, USA. †Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6. ‡School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Sciences, Conway Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland. §Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, West Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4. ¶Karolinska Institute, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Södertörn University College, School of Life Sciences, S-14189 Huddinge, Sweden. ¥British Columbia Cancer Agency, Genome Sciences Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4S6. Correspondence: Nansheng Chen. Email:© 2006 Chen et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.Ciliary genes in worms<p>Comparative genomic analysis of three nematode species identifies 93 genes that encode putative components of the ciliated neurons in <it>C. elegans </it>and are subject to the same regulatory control.</p>AbstractBackground: The recent availability of genome sequences of multiple related Caenorhabditis species hasmade it possible to identify, using comparative genomics, similarly transcribed genes in Caenorhabditiselegans and its sister species. Taking this approach, we have identified numerous novel ciliary genes in C.elegans, some of which may be orthologs of unidentified human ciliopathy genes.Results: By screening for genes possessing canonical X-box sequences in promoters of threeCaenorhabditis species, namely C. elegans, C. briggsae and C. remanei, we identified 93 genes (including knownX-box regulated genes) that encode putative components of ciliated neurons in C. elegans and are subjectto the same regulatory control. For many of these genes, restricted anatomical expression in ciliated cellswas confirmed, and control of transcription by the ciliogenic DAF-19 RFX transcription factor wasdemonstrated by comparative transcriptional profiling of different tissue types and of daf-19(+) and daf-19(-) animals. Finally, we demonstrate that the dye-filling defect of dyf-5(mn400) animals, which is indicativeof compromised exposure of cilia to the environment, is caused by a nonsense mutation in the serine/threonine protein kinase gene M04C9.5.Conclusion: Our comparative genomics-based predictions may be useful for identifying genes involved inhuman ciliopathies, including Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS), since the C. elegans orthologs of known humanPublished: 22 December 2006Genome Biology 2006, 7:R126 (doi:10.1186/gb-2006-7-12-r126)Received: 8 August 2006Revised: 20 October 2006Accepted: 22 December 2006The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at Biology 2006, 7:R126nBBS genes contain X-box motifs and are required for normal dye filling in C. elegans ciliated neurons.R126.2 Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. cilium is an evolutionarily conserved subcellularorganelle that projects from the surface of many eukaryoticcells in vertebrates, including kidney and endothelial cells,myocardial cells, odontoblasts, retinal photoreceptor cellsand cortical and hypothalamic neurons [1]. The biogenesisand maintenance of cilia is dependent on intraflagellar trans-port (IFT), which is a bidirectional motility process driven byanterograde and retrograde motors that operate along themicrotubule-based ciliary axoneme [2]. Consistent with theubiquitous distribution of cilia, many physiological processesare critically dependent on their function, which can bebroadly classified into two categories, namely cell (and fluid)motility and sensory perception [3]. Defects in the molecularcomponents of cilia and IFT are associated with a variety ofhuman disorders, including cystic kidney disease, primarycilia dyskinesia, retinitis pigmentosa, and Bardet-Biedl syn-drome (BBS) [1,3-5].Because of the importance of cilia function in diverse physio-logical processes and pathological conditions, significantefforts have recently been made to identify the molecularcomponents of these organelles (reviewed by Inglis et al. [5]).A key finding, which has provided the groundwork for uncov-ering new ciliary genes, was the discovery in 2000 by Swo-boda et al. [6] that C. elegans transcription factor DAF-19regulates the expression of key ciliogenic genes (for example,che-2, osm-1, and osm-6), and is, therefore, required forbuilding and maintaining nematode ciliary structures. DAF-19 is orthologous to human RFX transcription factors, whichbind to cis-regulatory elements called X-box motifs [7]. Theidentification of DAF-19 and its cognate binding motifs hasgreatly facilitated the identification of many novel ciliarygenes both in C. elegans (for example, bbs-3/arl-6 [8], bbs-5[9] and bbs-8 [10]), and in the fruit fly Drosophila mela-nogaster [11]. Interestingly, all but 3 of the 11 known humanBBS genes (BBS6 [12], BBS10 [13,14] and BBS11 [15]) haveclear one-to-one C. elegans orthologs. All studied C. elegansbbs genes have readily identifiable X-box motifs in their pro-moters and all are exclusively expressed in ciliated neurons[8-10]. In addition, loss-of-function C. elegans bbs allelespossess ciliary structure abnormalities, including an inabilityto take up fluorescent dyes [16-20]. Similar to bbs genemutants, dye-filling defect (Dyf) phenotypes are found inother ciliary and IFT mutants, including dyf-1 through dyf-13, as well as many Osm (osmotic avoidance abnormal) andChe (abnormal chemotaxis) mutants [3]. Taken together, theabove findings underscore the importance of the daf-19/X-box system in regulating C. elegans cilia formation and dem-onstrate that C. elegans is a very useful model for identifyingnew human BBS genes.The discovery of the DAF-19/X-box regulatory system alsoapproaches [5]. In one such project, Efimenko et al. [16]screened C. elegans promoters for X-box motifs that matchan 'average' X-box consensus, producing a set of 758 putativeX-box-regulated genes with one or more X-boxes within1,000 base-pairs (bp) upstream of the start codon. Similarly,Blacque et al. [17] scanned the C. elegans genome for candi-date X-boxes that match a hidden Markov model (HMM) [21]profile assembled from known X-box motif sequences,revealing a set of 1,572 genes with putative X-boxes within1,500 bp upstream of the start codon. Applying a more strin-gent criterion of X-boxes within 250 bp upstream of the startcodon, 293 genes were uncovered. Blacque et al. also per-formed serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) on ciliatedand non-ciliated cell types in C. elegans and searched forgenes with a 1.5-fold or greater level of expression in the cili-ated subset of neuronal cells versus predominantly non-cili-ated cell subsets (that is, pan-neuronal, intestinal and musclecell subsets). Combining the X-box and SAGE data, Blacqueet al. [17] were able to further refine their list of candidate cil-iary genes from 293 genes to a final total of 46 genes.Although the above studies [16,17] produced large gene setsthat contain many known and putative X-box regulatedgenes, including protein kinases, receptors, and transcriptionfactors [5,16,17], both approaches are limited by high falsepositive rates. In addition, both may have high false negativerates, especially with more stringent candidate gene sets suchas the X-box-containing genes where X-boxes are consideredonly within 250 bp upstream of the start codon. Since candi-date X-box motifs fall outside of the 250 bp (from the startcodon) range, many genes may potentially be omitted. Forexample, a candidate X-box motif in the promoter of arl-6(bbs-3) is >1,000 bp upstream of the start codon and wasmissed by both projects but uncovered when the search spacewas extended to 1,500 [8] (Table 1).Other approaches used to identify new ciliary genes includemicroarray expression profiling of isolated chemosensoryneurons [22] and labeled ciliated neurons [23]. These C. ele-gans-based approaches uncovered ciliated-neuron specificgenes, including X-box regulated genes and non-X-box regu-lated genes. Although such gene profiling approaches havebeen successful in identifying candidate ciliary genes, in par-ticular those that are not directly regulated by X-box motifs,they are less effective in identifying X-box regulated genessince not all ciliary genes are X-box regulated. Nevertheless,results from these functional genomics studies can becombined with data from comparative genomics analyses forprediction and data validation (see also [9,11]).Although many ciliary genes have been identified, it is certainthat many more remain undiscovered, including new BBSand IFT components. Indeed, underscoring this notion is thefact that all of the studied BBS proteins [8,18], as well as sev-Genome Biology 2006, 7:R126provided the rationale for using bioinformatics and genomicsapproaches to screen for additional C. elegans genes requiredfor cilia function using bioinformatics and genomicseral novel ciliary genes that encode IFT proteins with roles inbuilding C. elegans cilia, including dyf-1 [19], dyf-2 [24], dyf-3 [25], dyf-6 [26], dyf-13 [17] and ifta-1 [27], have only very126.3commentreviewsreportsrefereed researchdeposited researchinteractionsinformatio Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. Rrecently been identified and characterized. It is also interest-ing to note that not all BBS patient cohorts are accounted forby mutations in known BBS genes [28,29], indicating thatdates. To do this, we have taken a comparative genomicsapproach, based on the rationale that ciliary genes fromrelated nematode species are similarly dependent on X-boxTable 1Expression patterns of known and putative X-box containing C. elegans genes revealed by promoter::GFP transgenic analysesGene Locus SAGE Microarray Previous X-box prediction WormBase description/annotation Anatomical expressionBlacque et al. [17] Efimenko et al. [16]C02H7.1 - - - + + Microtubule-binding protein MIP-T3 ADF, ADL, AFD, ASG, ASH, ASI, ASJ, ASK, AWB, PHA, PHB, URX [22]; head neurons, amphid, tail neurons, phasmid [17]C04C3.3* - -0.15 0.9 + Pyruvate dehydrogenase E1, beta subunitPharynx, body wall muscle, head neurons, tail neuronsC27A7.4 che-11 0.21 3 + Intraflagellar transport 140 homolog Many, most, all ciliated neurons [16,18,63,64]C38D4.8 arl-6 (bbs-3) - - ADP-ribosylation factor-like protein 6 (BBS3)Head neurons, tail neurons [8]D1009.5 dylt-2 (xbx-2)0.31 10.4 + + Dynein light chain Many, most, all ciliated neurons [16]F02D8.3 xbx-1 - 22.7 + Dynein 2 light intermediate chain, isoform 1Many, most, all ciliated neurons [16,65]F09G2.8* - 0.86 - Phospholipase D3, isoform 1 Pharynx, head neuronsF20D12.3 bbs-2 0.89 - + + Bardet-Biedl syndrome 2 protein Many, most, all ciliated neurons [10,16]F32A6.2* - 0.87 6 + Splice isoform 2 of intraflagellar transport 81Head neurons, tail neuronsF38G1.1 che-2 0.82 11 + + Intraflagellar transport 80 homolog Many, most, all ciliated neurons [6,66]F40F9.1a xbx-6 -0.41 - Fas apoptotic inhibitory molecule 2 Body wall muscles, pharyngeal muscles, ventral nerve cord, phasmids [16]F41E7.9* - - - + Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase kinase 4 isoform 2Head neurons, tail neurons, hypodermisK07G5.3 - - 22.6 + C2 Ca2+-binding motif-containing proteinHead neurons, tail neurons [17]M04C9.5* dyf-5† - 5.3 + Serine/threonine-protein kinase MAK Amphids and phasmidsR01H10.6 bbs-5 0.95 4.6 + + Bardet-Biedl Syndrome 5 protein Many, most, all ciliated neurons [9,16]R31.3 osm-6 -0.11 34 + + Intraflagellar transport 52 homolog Many, most, all ciliated neurons [6,67]T25F10.5 bbs-8 0.46 7.7 + Bardet-Biedl Syndrome 8 protein Many, most, all ciliated neurons [10,16,18]T27B1.1 osm-1 - 4.3 + + Predicted intraflagellar transport raft proteinMany, most, all ciliated neurons [6,68]Y105E8A.5bbs-1 0.56 5.3 + + Bardet-Biedl syndrome 1 protein Many, most, all ciliated neurons [10,16]Y110A7A.20*- - - + Intraflagellar transport protein 20 homologHead neurons, tail neurons [17]Y37D8A.17- - - + Uncharacterized integral membrane proteinPharynxY41G9A.1osm-5 0.58 5.3 + + Tg737/IFT88 protein Many, most, all ciliated neurons [10,16,69]Y69A2AR.2a*ric-8 -0.21 - Signaling protein RIC-8/synembrynAmphids and phasmidsY75B8A.12osm-12 (bbs-7)- 2.1 + Bardet-Biedl Syndrome 7 protein Many, most, all ciliated neurons [10,16]ZK520.3dyf-2† - 16.6 WD repeat membrane protein Amphids, tail neurons [23]*Genes in these rows are uncharacterized X-box containing genes. †Connections between gene names (for example, M04C9.5) and locus names (for example, dyf-5) were made in this project. The unreferenced expression data were taken from the C. elegans Gene Expression Consortium database [33].nGenome Biology 2006, 7:R126additional BBS genes likely remain to be identified in C. ele-gans. For these reasons, the aim of this project is to identifyadditional ciliary genes, including potential BBS gene candi-motifs for their transcriptional regulation. The sequenceavailability of several C. elegans sister species has now madesuch a comparative approach possible. Specifically, the C.R126.4 Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. genome has been sequenced and annotated [30], ashas the C. remanei genome. With comparative genomics, thedistance-to-start codon requirement can be relaxed (to 2,000bp upstream of the start codon) so that more genuine X-boxescan be retained. Additionally, comparative genomics avoidsthe data noise and biased sampling associated with functionalgenomics (including microarray expression profiling andSAGE). Using this strategy, we have identified 93 known andputative ciliary genes, including some that are known to be, orlikely to be associated with cilia biogenesis and human ciliarydisorders. In addition, our comparative genomics approachwas used to clone a novel X-box-containing gene, dyf-5,which when mutated results in abnormal dye filling of ciliatedneurons.ResultsIdentification of ciliary genes using comparative genomicsTo identify X-box motif-regulated C. elegans genes, we per-formed a genome-wide screen for the X-box motif using theHMMER program [21] and a HMM profile generated from aset (15 motifs from 13 genes; Additional data file 1) of experi-mentally validated instances of X-box motifs in C. elegans.Using this approach, we uncovered 4,291 individual X-boxmotifs (Figure 1), which is comparable to the number of X-boxes obtained by Efimenko et al. [16] and Blacque et al. [17].Since our dataset of 4,291 candidate genes undoubtedly con-tains many false positives, we sought to filter for genuine X-box motifs in the C. elegans genome. To do this we exploitedthe fully annotated whole genome sequences of C. briggsae[30] and the partially finished genome of C. remanei, reason-ing that bona fide X-box motifs are highly conserved amongthese three closely related species. By assuming and requiringthat candidate X-box motifs exist within the promoter regionsof orthologous genes in all three species, we obtained 93 can-didate-X-box motif-containing genes (Figure 1; Additionaldata file 2). Note that we screened for X-boxes up to 2,000 bpupstream of start codons, since some genuine X-box motifsmay reside outside of the preferred region (-50 to -200 bpupstream of the ATG codon) [6,16,17]. All but two of the X-box containing genes used to generate the X-box HMM pro-file are in the 93 candidate gene set, suggesting a low falsenegative rate of approximately 15% (2/13).Anatomical expression analysisTo assess the validity of our procedure in identifying bonafide X-box containing genes, which we would expect to beexpressed only in C. elegans ciliated neurons, we examinedavailable C. elegans anatomical gene expression pattern datain WormBase [31,32], the published literature, and the Brit-ish Columbia promoter::GFP transgenic strains database [33](Table 1). Among the 93 candidate X-box-containing genesexpressed in the ciliated amphid (head) and/or phasmid (tail)neurons (Table 1), as expected for genes required for ciliafunction or ciliated cell differentiation; 4 of the 24 genesshowed additional weak signals in the gut and other tissues(for example, pharyngeal signals for C04C3.3) (Table 1). Onegene was not expressed in ciliated neurons but insteadshowed expression in the pharynx (Y37D8A.17). Hence, weestimate the false positive prediction rate to be also very low,at approximately 4% (1/25). As described in Table 1, 7 of the25 genes are as yet uncharacterized. Except for C04C3.3,these genes are exclusively expressed in ciliated neurons (fivegenes are shown in Figure 2), suggesting that they likely havea role in cilia function. Among the remaining genes withoutknown anatomical expression patterns (Additional data file2), approximately one-quarter have been characterized andassigned with CGC (Caenorhabditis Genetics Center) genenames (Table 1). The anatomical expression patterns of allremaining candidate X-box containing genes from Additionaldata file 2 will be ascertained in a separate study.SAGE data analysisIt is anticipated that the transcriptional expression pattern ofX-box regulated genes will be strongly correlated with that ofdaf-19, which encodes the transcription factor that binds tothe X-box motif [6]. To address this hypothesis, we employeda series of SAGE datasets that were previously generated bythe C. elegans Gene Expression Consortium [33] for varioustissue types, including the ciliated cell subset of neuronal cells[17]. For each type of tissue analyzed by SAGE, we determinedthe number of expressed tags corresponding to daf-19 and toeach of the 93 candidate X-box genes (Additional data file 2).We then calculated Pearson correlation coefficient (PCC) val-ues between the daf-19 and X-box gene tag counts using aprocedure described previously [34]. Among the 93 candidategenes, 50 possessed usable SAGE tags that could be unambig-uously mapped to a single gene model and had at least fivetags in one or more tissue libraries (Table 1, Additional datafile 2) [35]. As illustrated in Figure 3, the density curve for thepooled PCC values for all 50 X-box-regulated candidate genesshows a prominent peak at a PCC of about 0.8, suggestingthat a large portion of our candidate X-box regulated genes(Additional data file 2) are positively correlated with daf-19.In contrast, the 4,291 raw X-box-containing genes identifiedbefore applying the species conservation criteria show only aweak positively correlated peak, with a much stronger peakcentered around the uncorrelated PCC value of 0.0. The curverepresenting the PCC values for daf-19 and 1,000 randomlychosen C. elegans genes shows that, for most genes, theirexpression is not correlated to daf-19. In summary, 32% ofthe filtered gene set (Additional data file 2), including wellstudied X-box-containing genes such as bbs-1 (0.56), bbs-2(0.89), bbs-9 (0.75), che-2 (0.82), and osm-5 (0.58), had aPCC greater than 0.5. In contrast, only 13% of random genesGenome Biology 2006, 7:R126that we have identified (Additional data file 2), 25 had pre-engineered promoter::GFP transgenic strains and recordedexpression profiles. Of these 25 genes, 24 were found to beand 16% of raw X-box containing genes had a PCC greaterthan researchdeposited researchinteractionsinformatio Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. RMicroarray analysis for DAF-19 regulated genesTo further ascertain whether the X-box-containing genesidentified in Additional data file 2 are regulated by the DAF-19 ciliogenic transcription factor, we carried out microarrayanalysis using Affymetrix chips that encompass >95% of all C.elegans genes and compared the expression profiles of daf-19(+) and daf-19(-) animals. The entire dataset, obtainedfrom two separate microarray experiments, lists theexpression data for 15,879 genes (Additional data file 3), andis ordered by genes with the highest level of down regulationin daf-19(-) animals compared to the daf-19(+) control ani-mals. Among these genes, 466 genes show a down regulationof 2.0-fold or higher. To estimate the sensitivity of thisapproach, we examined the enrichment of genes used for gen-19), which indicates 69% sensitivity. Similarly, to estimate thespecificity of this approach, we examined the top 50 genes inthe entire dataset (shown in Additional data file 3) and foundthat 29 (58%) genes are well characterized X-box regulatedgenes (for example, osm-6, xbx-1, dyf-1, dyf-2, che-2, che-3and bbs-5), contain conserved X-box motifs in all three spe-cies (for example, ZK418.3 and T28F3.6) or are exclusivelyexpressed in ciliated neurons (for example, C33A12.4 [23],K07G5.3 [17] and F53A9.4 [23]). These data suggest that themicroarray approach shows a better level of specificity andsensitivity than the SAGE approach, which was found to havea 67% false-positive rate [17]. Among the 83 X-box-contain-ing genes in Additional data file 2 that have human homologs,61 genes have usable microarray results; 25 of these areProcedure and searching resultsFigure 1Procedure and searching results. (a) Procedure for identifying genes that are expressed in ciliated neurons in C. elegans. Known X-boxes used in this procedure are listed in Additional data file 1. The program hmmb was used to build an HMM profile, which was then used to search the promoter sequences using the program hmmfs. (b) The Generic Genome Browser and Bio::DB::GFF database [49] were used for finding candidate X-boxes and X-box regulated genes.Known X-box motifs in C. elegansHMMER(hmmb)Map X-box to the C. elegansgenomeMap X-box to the C. briggsaegenomeMap X-box to the C. remaneigenomeFind intersectionamong Obtain qualifiedX-box motifs15 known X-boxesfrom 13 genesHMMER(hmmb)Load Bio::DB::GFFDatabaseQualifiedX-box genes:93(a)(b) 4,291X-boxes inthe C. elegansgenome5,048 X-boxes inthe C. briggsaegenome6,381 X-boxes  in the C. remaneigenomenGenome Biology 2006, 7:R126erating the X-box HMM profile (shown in Additional data file1) and found that 9/13 (69%) are highly enriched in the daf-19(+) animals (that is, down regulated in the absence of DAF-enriched more than 2-fold in the daf-19(+) strains (Addi-tional data file 2), suggesting that these X-box-containing C.elegans genes contain significantly (p = 7.6 × e-9, Fisher'sR126.6 Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. test) overrepresented genes that are dependent on DAF-19 for expression compared to the genome-wide data.Approximately half of all X-box containing genes that showboth strong correlation in gene expression with daf-19 (PCC= 0.4) and whose expression requires daf-19 (ratio = 2.0) arewell known cilium-specific genes, including bbs-2, bbs-5,bbs-8, che-2 and osm-5 (Table 2). The other genes in Table 2represent strong candidates for ciliary genes.Identification of the dyf-5 geneSince all studied C. elegans orthologs of known human BBSgenes and other ciliogenic genes (for example, IFT genes)possess a dye-filling defect when disrupted, we were inter-ested in determining whether any of the 93 genes in the can-didate X-box gene dataset (Additional data file 2) correspondto previously described C. elegans dyf alleles that have notbeen cloned. To do this, we obtained the predicted geneticmap locations for each of the candidate X-box genes andinvestigated whether they overlapped with the geneticintervals of uncloned dyf alleles [36] in the C. elegansof this project and was found to encode an IFT protein inanother study [24]. The uncloned gene dyf-10(e1383), mapsto chromosome I:1.56 +/- 0.043 cM [36]. Since the C48B6.8(gk471) deletion mutant we obtained from the C. elegansknockout consortium is dye-filling defective (data not shown)and maps within the genetic interval of dyf-10(e1383), wetested the hypothesis that the two genes were the same. Wesequenced the coding regions and intron-exon boundaries ofC48B6.8 from the dyf-10 strain but found no mutations.Given the possibility of lesions in non-coding region(s) suchas the promoter, we performed complementation analyses.C48B6.8 (gk471) mutant males were crossed to dyf-10(e1383) hermaphrodites, and the resulting progeny took updye. Thus, the two mutations are likely to be in differentgenes, and dyf-10 remains uncloned. However, the findingthat the C48B6.8 mutant exhibits a Dyf phenotype is consist-ent with the fact that it is the homolog of the recently identi-fied BBS9 gene [28], as all bbs mutants tested to date haveciliary abnormalities and are Dyf [18,20].The X-box-containing genes Y69A2AR.2a, C02H7.1, F41E7.9, F32A6.2 and M04C9.5 are expressed exclusively within ciliated cellsFigure 2The X-box-containing genes Y69A2AR.2a, C02H7.1, F41E7.9, F32A6.2 and M04C9.5 are expressed exclusively within ciliated cells. Shown are green fluorescent protein (GFP) fluorescence images of the head (for example, amphid cell region) and tail (for example, phasmid cell region) regions of worms expressing transcriptional GFP reporters to the indicated genes. In all cases, expression is observed only within ciliated neuronal cells such as the amphid head cells and the phasmid tail cells.M04C9.5 - phasmidCell bodyDendriteM04C9.5 - amphidCell bodyDendriteF32A6.2 - phasmidCell body DendriteF32A6.2 - amphidCell bodyDendriteC02H7.1 - phasmidCell bodyDendriteC02H7.1 - amphidCell bodyDendriteF41E7.9 - phasmidCell bodyDendriteY69A2AR.2a - phasmidCell bodyDendriteY69A2AR.2a - amphidCell bodyDendriteF41E7.9 - amphidCell bodyDendriteGenome Biology 2006, 7:R126genome. This analysis revealed three strong matches: dyf-2/ZK520.3, dyf-5/M04C9.5 and dyf-10/C48B6.8. One of thesegenes, dyf-2, was independently identified during the courseIn contrast to our efforts to clone dyf-10, we were successfulin identifying the dyf-5(mn400) mutation, which wasmapped by Wicks et al. [37]. Specifically, we found that dyf-126.7commentreviewsreportsrefereed researchdeposited researchinteractionsinformatio Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. R5(mn400) animals carry a G→A point mutation in the secondcoding exon of M04C9.5, which creates a premature stopcodon (TAG) in the predicted serine/threonine kinasedomain of this gene (Figure 4). Importantly, the Dyf pheno-type of dyf-5(mn400) mutants was rescued by transgenicexpression of the wild-type M04C9.5 gene (data not shown).Furthermore, the dyf-5(mn400) and M04C9.5 (ok1170)genes failed to complement each other based on a Dyf assay,consistent with each strain carrying mutations in the samegene. Taken together, these data provide strong evidence thatwe have identified the dyf-5 gene. M04C9.5 encodes apreviously uncharacterized but evolutionarily conserved ser-ine/threonine kinase that, consistent with its likely role incilia formation/function, has been identified in human andChlamydomonas ciliary proteomes [38,39].DiscussionThe aim of this project was to identify novel ciliary/ciliopathygenes by using a comparative genomics approach thatexploits emerging sequence and sequence annotation data ofrelated animal species. Here, we have identified an extensivelist (total 93) of candidate X-box regulated genes, of whichapproximately one-third are known X-box-regulated/ciliarygenes. Many, or even the majority, of these candidate ciliarygenes when mutated may cause a dye filling defect. Since themajority (83 out of 93) of the candidate X-box-regulatedgenes in C. elegans have readily identifiable human orthologs(Additional data file 2), it would be productive to screenpatients with known ciliopathies, such as BBS, for mutationsaffecting some of these genes. In addition, based on the cor-relation between the Dyf phenotype and ciliary gene function,the regulation of such genes by the X-box-binding DAF-19transcription factor, and the conservation of such motifsacross sister Caenorhabditis genomes, we have successfullycloned dyf-5 and identified at least one other dyf gene,namely ZK520.3 for dyf-2, which has been characterized else-where [24]. The cloning of these dyf genes has demonstratedthe effectiveness of the combined comparative genomics andgenetics analysis approach presented here. The newly cloneddyf-5 gene may be a C. elegans ortholog of a yet unidentifiedThe candidate gene dataset (Additional data file 2) is enriched with genes w ose SAGE tag expres ion prof le positively correlates with that of daf-19Figure 3The candidate gene dataset (Additional data file 2) is enriched with genes whose SAGE tag expression profile positively correlates with that of daf-19. 'Random genes' (black line) represents the correlation profile in gene expression between daf-19 and a random set of 1,000 genes in C. elegans; 'before filtration' (blue line) represents the correlation profile between DAF-19 and a raw list of genes that contain all putative X-box motifs in their promoters; and 'after comparative filtration' (green line) represents the correlation profile between DAF-19 and the set of filtered genes that contain X-box motifs in orthologous genes in three Caenorhabditis species.−1.0 −0.5 0.0 0.5−box regulated genesPearson correlation coefficientTable 2C. elegans genes that contain X-box motifs in their promoters, are positively correlated with daf-19 in gene expression, and have reduced expression in daf-19(-) strainsC. elegans gene Locus SAGE Microarray Human Human genomic coordinates (chromosome:start..end) Cytogenetic DescriptionC18H9.8 - 0.43 5 ENSP00000262247 9:26946410..27052802 9p21.2 Intraflagellar transport 74 homologC48B6.8 (bbs-9) 0.75 43.5 ENSP00000313122 7:32942414..33418920 7p14.3 Bardet-Biedl syndrome 9 proteinE04A4.6 - 0.97 81.7 ENSP00000265993 10:97413166..97443890 10q24.1 Hypothetical protein C10orf61F20D12.3 bbs-2 0.89 6.8 ENSP00000245157 16:55075801..55111696 16q12.2 Bardet-Biedl syndrome 2 proteinF32A6.2 - 0.87 6 ENSP00000355372 12:109024940..109118751 12q24.11 Intraflagellar transport 81 homologF38G1.1 che-2 0.82 11 ENSP00000312778 3:161457490..161600022 3q25.33 Intraflagellar transport 80 homologR01H10.6 bbs-5 0.95 4.6 ENSP00000295240 2:170161500..170188671 2q31.1 Bardet-Biedl syndrome 5T25F10.5 bbs-8 0.46 7.7 ENSP00000339486 14:88360731..88414084 14q32.11 Bardet-Biedl syndrome 8 proteinT28F3.6 Ifta-2 0.83 10.3 ENSP00000320359 7:100550084..100558512 7q22.1 RAB5-like proteinY41G9A.1 osm-5 0.58 5.3 ENSP00000323580 13:20038585..20163314 13q12.11 Tg737/IFT88 proteinnGenome Biology 2006, 7:R126ZK418.3 - 0.46 12.2 ENSP00000335094 2:62639421..62645127 2p15 Transmembrane protein 17daf-19 gene expression was as ascertained by SAGE. Reduced expression in daf-19(-) strains was determined by microarray.R126.8 Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. BBS or other ciliopathy-associated gene since all stud-ied C. elegans orthologs of known human BBS genes result ina Dyf phenotype when disrupted [18,20,40].Because transcriptional regulatory motifs are generally short(less than 20 bp) and degenerate, many thousands of poten-tial binding sites for any given transcription factor areexpected to be found by chance [41] and this poses a greatchallenge in identifying bona fide binding sites, especially inlarge eukaryote genomes. Our approach overcomes such atarget genes, such an approach is arguably advantageouscompared to approaches that rely on co-expression, whichcan be coincidental or even secondary to a common transcrip-tional regulatory pathway and thus lead to a high rate of falsepositives. Indeed, many of the 466 daf-19 regulated genesidentified in this study by microarray expression profiling donot contain the X-box motif in their promoters and are notnecessarily directly regulated by DAF-19. Furthermore, com-parative genomics is advantageous because it does notencounter problems of data noise and biased sampling asso-Identification of X-box regulated genes facilitated the cloning of the C. elegans dye filling defective gene, dyf-5Figure 4Identification of X-box regulated genes facilitated the cloning of the C. elegans dye filling defective gene, dyf-5. M04C9.5 in C. elegans and its orthologs in C. briggsae (CBG22182) and C. remanei (Cr_M04C9.5) all have X-box motifs in their promoters. The C. elegans candidate gene M04C9.5 matches the genetic position of dyf-5. Sequencing of M04C9.5 in the dyf-5 strain revealed that it carries a G→A point mutation in its second coding exon, which generates a nonsense mutation and, therefore, causes a premature termination in translation. Numbers next to X-box motifs are their HMM scores. This figure was drawn using the Generic Genome Browser [49].mn400 allele has  a G->A mutation at Chr I: 9,360,207 bp (or at M04C9:17,005 bp)Genome Biology 2006, 7:R126challenge by using comparative genomics and the recentavailability of multiple sister Caenorhabditis genomes. In thecontext of identifying transcription factor binding sites andciated with functional genomics projects. On the other hand,the comparative genomics based strategy reveals only highlyconserved motifs while others are regarded as false positives126.9commentreviewsreportsrefereed researchdeposited researchinteractionsinformatio Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. Rand discarded accordingly. One caveat of this rather conserv-ative filtering procedure is that species-specific bindingmotifs, or more divergent motifs, are mistakenly discarded,leading to a non-negligible false negative rate. Therefore, thecandidate X-box regulated genes identified in this projectmay only represent a portion of the entire set of bona fide X-box regulated genes in C. elegans. In fact, there are still sevendyf genes (dyf-4, dyf-7, dyf-8, dyf-9, dyf-10, dyf-11 and dyf-12) in C. elegans that remain to be identified. However, weshould be aware that not all of the uncloned dyf genes areDAF-19 and X-box dependent (for example, genes such asdaf-6 [42] that are expressed in the sheath cell or socket cellwhen mutated can also lead to the Dyf phenotype). To clonethese bona fide X-box-regulated dyf genes and identify addi-tional X-box regulated genes, some of which might beuncloned osm or che genes, we will need to have a moredetailed understanding of the properties of X-box motifs,including the variation, preferred position in the promoter,and interaction with other binding motifs. Some of thesequestions will be at least partially addressed after we have val-idated more of our candidate X-box-containing genes in C.elegans. This study and previous studies [6,10,16,17] havefound that the majority of known X-boxes are located within250 bp upstream of the translational start site (ATG). How-ever, many genuine X-boxes reside far outside of this optimalregion, further suggesting that other factors or properties ofX-boxes that are critical for their functions remain to beidentified.Additionally, improvement in gene curation and the emer-gence of more related sequenced genomes, includingCaenorhabditis japonica and CB5161, will undoubtedly serveto reduce false negative hits and reveal more targets. Lastly,functional genomics approaches, including ChIP-Chip [43],SACO [44], or ChIP-PET [45,46] technologies, will help toidentify more novel candidate genes, in particular species-specific ones.ConclusionOur study demonstrates how comparative genomics is a pow-erful tool for facilitating identification of novel genes andpositional cloning. In this study, we exploited the priorunderstanding of known BBS genes, the C. elegans dye fillingdefect phenotype, and, most importantly, the presence of ashared synteny of regulatory (X-box) motifs among con-served genes. It will be of great interest to pursue thecharacterization of the many X-box containing genes identi-fied in this study, in particular with respect to their possibleinvolvement in ciliary function and as candidates for BBS/cil-iopathy-associated genes.Materials and methodsData mining and gene findingGenomic sequences and gene annotations of C. elegans andC. briggsae were obtained from WormBase stable releaseWS150 [32]. Genomic sequences of C. remanei were obtainedfrom the ftp site of the development site of WormBase. Sincethe C. remanei genome sequencing project is still in progress,a consensus gene set is not yet available. To annotate thePCAP-assembled [47]C. remanei genome, a homology-basedgene finding program Exonerate (version 1.0.0) [48] wasused. All sequence and annotation data were dumped intoand retrieved from a MySQL database using theBio::DB::GFF schema [49], and were viewed using theGeneric Genome Browser [49].HMMER and motif findingThe HMMER program package was downloaded from SeanEddy's website [21,50]. Release version HMMER 1.8.5 wasused because it has been tested and extensively used for DNAsequence analysis. Fifteen X-box motifs (from thirteen genes,shown in Additional data file 1) were aligned using the pro-gram ClustalW [51] before being fed to the hmmb and hmmfsprograms for creating an HMM profile and searchinginstances of X-box motifs, respectively. Results were parsedand loaded into the Bio::DB::GFF database for furtheranalysis.SAGE analysisSAGE libraries were downloaded from the British ColumbiaC. elegans Gene Expression Consortium, Canada [33,34].Before being used for gene expression analysis, SAGE tagswere filtered for usable tags. Each of these usable tags can beunambiguously mapped to a single gene model and its tag fre-quency has to be five or more in at least one of the SAGElibraries. The density curves for PCC values were generatedusing the statistics package R [52] as reported previously[34].Promoter::GFP transgenic strainsThe engineering procedure was as described in our previouspublications [53,54]. Briefly, the GFP coding sequence was'stitched' together with the promoter of the gene of interestfollowing the procedure developed by Oliver Hobert [55], fol-lowed by injection of the constructs into dpy-5 worms [56]. Awild-type dpy-5 gene was co-injected. F2 dyp-5(+) wormswere subsequently selected, and then placed under the micro-scope for analysis of GFP signals.Transgenic rescueA rescuing construct for M04C9.5 was generated by PCRamplifying a 3,773 bp fragment of N2 genomic DNA encom-passing the M04C9.5 gene and flanking sequences using theprimers: M04C9.5F2 5' GAAAAAAAAGTATTTGTAACG3'nGenome Biology 2006, 7:R126and M04C9.5R2 5' GGATATTTCAGCACCATGAG 3'. Micro-injection was performed as described [57]. Briefly, 50 ng/μl ofrescuing construct along with 100 ng/μl of pCeh361 (a dpy-5R126.10 Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. plasmid [56]) and 20 ng/μl of pmyo-2::GFP (domi-nant marker, gift from A Fire in Stanford University) was co-injected into dpy-5(e907) worms. The M04C9.5 rescuingconstructs were crossed into the dyf-5(mn400) mutant back-ground and assayed for rescue of the dye-filling defective phe-notype by DiI staining [36].Gene sequencingThe same PCR fragments used for transgenic rescue wereused for sequencing of the M04C9.5 genomic regions. Theconstructs were subsequently PCR purified and sent to Mac-rogen [58] for sequencing. Sequencing primers are includedin Additional data file 4.Complementation testThe complementation test between dyf-5(mn400) andM04C9.5 (ok1170) and between dyf-10(e1383) and C48B6.8(gk471) were performed as described [36]. Phenotypes wereassessed by DiI dye filling [36].DAF-19 microarray expression profilingEmbryo preparationdaf-19(-) animals (daf-19(m86);daf-12(sa204)) and daf-19(+) animals (daf-12(sa204)) were grown to adult stage onsolid media. Note that the daf-12(sa204) mutation sup-presses the Daf-c phenotype of daf-19(m86), thereby allow-ing us to obtain large populations of daf-19(-) worms. Eggswere prepared from gravid adults using a hypochlorite treat-ment [59], resuspended in 10 mM Tris-EDTA (pH 7.5) andstored at -80°C.RNA isolation, analysis and labelingThawed embryos were disrupted using syringes fit with a 26-gauge needle. Total RNA was isolated using TRIzol reagent(Invitrogen, Carlsbad, California, USA) coupled with phaselock gel tubes (Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany). ExtractedRNA was subjected to rigorous quality assessment and quan-tification using the RNA Nano LabChip Kit (Agilent Technol-ogies, Santa Clara) with the 2100 Bioanalyzer (AgilentTechnologies). Numerical measures of RNA quality (rRNAratio, RNA integrity number) were employed to ensure thehigh quality of extracted RNA. Good quality total RNA (5micrograms) was subjected to a standard eukaryotic targetpreparation protocol as detailed in the GeneChip ExpressionAnalysis Technical Manual (provided by Affymetrix, SantaClara, California, USA) [60].GeneChip hybridization, washing, staining, and scanningA hybridization cocktail mixture was made for each labeledRNA sample. Each cocktail included spikes of GeneChiphybridization controls, which served as measures of hybridi-zation quality and array performance. Each sample was sub-sequently hybridized to an Affymetrix GeneChip C. elegansOven 640, followed by automated washes and staining in aGeneChip Fluidics Station 450 controlled by GeneChip oper-ating software (GCOS). The procedure involved a single stainprotocol using a streptavidin-phycoerythrin conjugate cou-pled with antibody amplification of fluorescent signal. Lastly,scanning and image capture were done with a solid-stategreen laser GeneChip Scanner 3000.Raw data processing and technical quality assessmentsThe raw array images were visually inspected for artifacts andfor proper grid-alignment. Data processing followed usingGCOS software, with a chip-by-chip analysis to assess globaltrends in expression data. For each analysis, signal intensitieswere scaled to All Probe Sets with a Target Signal setting of500, the Normalization Value was set to 1, and default set-tings were used for the remaining expression analysis param-eters. Relative scaling factors, average background and noisevalues were confirmed to be within ranges considered satis-factory as per the Affymetrix Data Analysis Fundamentalsmanual (provided by Affymetrix) [61]. Signals from spikedhybridization controls were checked to ensure that the limitsof assay sensitivity were achieved. Ratios of the 3' versus 5'probe sets for selected endogenous transcripts (beta-actinand GAPDH), ideally approaching a value of 1, were checkedto ensure efficiencies in cDNA synthesis and in vitro tran-scription reactions. Chips meeting all these quality metricswere passed for higher level analysis. Microarray datasetsused for this project have been submitted to the Gene Expres-sion Omnibus (GEO) database [62]. The GEO accession num-bers are GSE6563 (project number), GSM151745 (daf-19(m86);daf-12(sa204), GSM151746 (daf-19(m86);daf-12(sa204)), GSM151747 (daf-12(sa204)), and GSM151748(daf-12(sa204)).Additional data filesThe following additional data are available with the onlineversion of this paper. Additional data file 1 is a table listingpreviously identified X-box motifs in C. elegans. These motifswere used as input to generate an HMM profile for findingnovel X-box motifs. Additional data file 2 is a table listingknown and newly identified X-box-regulated genes in C. ele-gans. Additional data file 3 is a table listing Affymetrix micro-array analysis results. Additional data file 4 is a list ofsequencing primers for identifying dyf-5.Additional data file 1Previously identifi d X-box motifs in C. elegans.These motifs were used as inpu  to generate  HMM profile for fin ng ovel X-box motifs.Click here for file 2K own and newly i entified X-box-r gul d genes in C. elegans.3ffymet ix microarray analysis re ults.4Sequ ci g prim s for id t fy ng dyf-5.AcknowledgementsLDS is funded by NHGRI. NC is supported by grants from NHGRI, NSERCand a start-up fund from Simon Fraser University. DLB is supported bygrants from NSERC, CIHR of Canada and from Genome Canada andGenome British Columbia. DGM and MAM are supported by GenomeCanada and Genome British Columbia. MRL is supported by a grant fromthe March of Dimes and holds scholar awards from CIHR and MSFHR. OEBwas supported by a MSFHR fellowship and is currently supported by Sci-Genome Biology 2006, 7:R126genome array. This high-density GeneChip simultaneouslyprobes for over 22,500 C. elegans transcripts. Sixteen-hourhybridizations were performed in a GeneChip Hybridizationence Foundation Ireland. AM is supported by an NSERC scholarship. Workin the laboratory of PS is supported by grants from the Swedish ResearchCouncil (VR) and from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research(SSF). Jamie Inglis worked on this project when he was a summer student126.11commentreviewsreportsrefereed researchdeposited researchinteractionsinformatio Genome Biology 2006,     Volume 7, Issue 12, Article R126       Chen et al. Rin the Stein lab. Strains containing the dyf-5(mn400), dyf-5/M04C9.5(ok1170), daf-19(m86), daf-12(sa204), dyf-10(e1383) and C48B6.8(gk471) mutant alleles were obtained from the Caenorhabditis GeneticsCenter (CGC). We thank Kim Wong who participated the in the microar-ray analysis project and Richard Karhol and Allen Delaney for submittingthe microarray data to the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO). 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