J Cell Sci 2004 Jan;117(Pt 3):457-64
Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA.
The mitotic spindle, which partitions replicated chromosomes to daughter cells during cell division, is composed of microtubule assemblies of alpha/beta-tubulin heterodimers. Positioning of the mitotic spindle influences the size and location of daughter cells, and can be important for the proper partitioning of developmental determinants. We describe two semi-dominant mis-sense mutations in tbb-2, one of two C. elegans beta-tubulin genes that are maternally expressed and together are required for microtubule-dependent processes in the early embryo. These mutations result in a posteriorly displaced and misoriented mitotic spindle during the first cell division. In contrast, a probable tbb-2 null allele is recessive, and when homozygous results in less severe spindle positioning defects and only partially penetrant embryonic lethality. Two of the tbb-2 mutations result in reduced levels of TBB-2 protein, and increased levels of a second maternally expressed beta-tubulin, TBB-1. However, levels of TBB-1 are not increased in a tbb-2 mutant with an allele that does not result in reduced levels of TBB-2 protein. We conclude that feedback regulation influences maternal beta-tubulin expression in C. elegans, but cannot fully restore normal microtubule function in the absence of one beta-tubulin isoform.