The body size of Caenorhabditis elegans is thought to be controlled by sensory inputs because many mutants with sensory cilium structure defects exhibit small body size. The EGL-4 cGMP-dependent protein kinase acts in sensory neurons to reduce body size when animals fail to perceive sensory signals. In addition to body size control, EGL-4 regulates various other behavioral and developmental pathways, including those involved in the regulation of egg laying and chemotaxis behavior. Here we have identified gcy- 12, which encodes a receptor-type guanylyl cyclase, as a gene involved in the sensory regulation of body size. Analyses with GFP fusion constructs showed that gcy-12 is expressed in several sensory neurons and localizes to sensory cilia. Genetic analyses indicated that GCY-12 acts upstream of EGL-4 in body size control but does not affect other EGL-4 functions. Our studies indicate that the function of the GCY-12 guanylyl cyclase is to provide cGMP to the EGL-4 cGMP-dependent kinase only for limited tasks including body size regulation. We also found that the PDE-2 cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase negatively regulates EGL-4 in controlling body size. Thus, the cGMP level is precisely controlled by GCY-12 and PDE-2 to determine body size through EGL-4, and the defects in the sensory cilium structure may disturb the balanced control of the cGMP level. The large number of guanylyl cyclases encoded in the C. elegans genome suggests that EGL-4 exerts pleiotropic effects by partnering with different guanylyl cyclases for different downstream functions.
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