The genes egl-1, ced-9, ced-4, and ced-3 play major roles in programmed cell death in Caenorhabditis elegans. To identify genes that have more subtle activities, we sought mutations that confer strong cell-death defects in a genetically sensitized mutant background. Specifically, we screened for mutations that enhance the celldeath defects caused by a partial loss-of-function allele of the ced-3 caspase gene. We identified mutations in two genes not previously known to affect cell death, dpl-1 and mcd-1 (modifier of cell death). dpl-1 encodes the C. elegans homolog of DP, the human E2F-heterodimerization partner. By testing genes known to interact with dpl-1, we identified roles in cell death for four additional genes: efl-1 E2F, lin-35 Rb, lin-37 Mip40, and lin-52 dLin52. mcd-1 encodes a novel protein that contains one zinc finger and that is synthetically required with lin-35 Rb for animal viability. dpl-1 and mcd-1 act with efl-1 E2F and lin-35 Rb to promote programmed cell death and do so by regulating the killing process rather than by affecting the decision between survival and death. We propose that the DPL-1 DP, MCD-1 zinc finger, EFL-1 E2F, LIN-35 Rb, LIN-37 Mip40, and LIN-52 dLin52 proteins act together in transcriptional regulation to promote programmed cell death.
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