Insulated Switches: Dual-Function Protein RalGEFRGL-1 Promotes Developmental Fidelity. Academic Article uri icon


  • The C. elegans vulva is an excellent model for the study of developmental biology and cell-cell signaling. The developmental induction of vulval precursor cells (VPCs) to assume the 3-3-2-1-2-3 patterning of cell fates occurs with 99.8% accuracy. During C. elegans vulval development, an EGF signal from the anchor cell initiates the activation of RasLET-60 > RafLIN-45 > MEKMEK-2 > ERKMPK-1 signaling cascade to induce the 1 cell. The presumptive 1 cell signals its two neighboring cells via NotchLIN-12 to develop 2 cells. In addition, RasLET-60 switches effectors to RalGEFRGL-1 > RalRAL-1 to promote 2 fate. Shin et al. (2019) showed that RalGEFRGL-1 is a dual-function protein in VPCs fate patterning. RalGEFRGL-1 functions as a scaffold for PDKPDK-1 > AktAKT-1/2 modulatory signaling to promote 1 fate in addition to propagating the RasLET-60 modulatory signal through RalRAL-1 to promote 2 fate. The deletion of RalGEFRGL-1 increases the frequency of VPC patterning errors 15-fold compared to the wild-type control. We speculate that RalGEFRGL-1 represents an "insulated switch", whereby the promotion of one signaling activity curtails the promotion of the opposing activity. This property might increase the impact of the switch on fidelity more than two separately encoded proteins could. Understanding how developmental fidelity is controlled will help us to better understand the origins of cancer and birth defects, which occur in part due to the misspecification of cell fates.

published proceedings

  • Int J Mol Sci

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Duong, T., Rasmussen, N. R., & Reiner, D. J.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Duong, Tam||Rasmussen, Neal R||Reiner, David J

publication date

  • January 2020