• cholinesterases;
  • GFP;
  • operon;
  • sensory neurons


ace-1 and ace-2 genes encoding acetylcholinesterase in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans present 35% identity in coding sequences but no homology in noncoding regions (introns, 5′- and 3′-untranslated regions). A 5′-region of ace-2 was defined by rescue of ace-1;ace-2 mutants. When green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression was driven by this regulatory region, the resulting pattern was distinct from that of ace-1. This latter gene is expressed in all body-wall and vulval muscle cells (Culetto et al., 1999), whereas ace-2 is expressed almost exclusively in neurons. ace-3 and ace-4 genes are located in close proximity on chromosome II (Combes et al., 2000). These two genes were first transcribed in vivo as a bicistronic messenger and thus constitute an ace-3;ace-4 operon. However, there was a very low level of monocistronic mRNA of ace-4 (the upstream gene) in vivo, and no ACE-4 enzymatic activity was ever detected. GFP expression driven by a 5′ upstream region of the ace-3;ace-4 operon was detected in several muscle cells of the pharynx (pm3, pm4, pm5 and pm7) and in the two canal associated neurons (CAN cells). A dorsal row of body-wall muscle cells was intensively labelled in larval stages but no longer detected in adults. The distinct tissue-specific expression of ace-1, ace-2 and ace-3 (coexpressed only in pm5 cells) indicates that ace genes are not redundant.