Mutations in the unc-41 Gene Cause Elevation of Acetylcholine Levels


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. R. Hosono at Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920, Japan.


Abstract: Mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans unc-41 gene result in an allele-dependent elevation of acetylcholine content. Eight recessive alleles (cn252, e268, e399, e650, e1175, e1199, e1294, and e870) lead to phenotypes including uncoordinated locomotion, slow growth, a small mature body, and resistance to the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors as well as the elevation of acetylcholine content. The remaining two alleles, e554 and e1162, exhibit normal acetylcholine levels but display the short-body phenotype in a semidominant way. To determine the localization of the elevated acetylcholine content, a method for the isolation of synaptic vesicles from C. elegans was established. The elevation of acetylcholine content in the unc-41 mutants is accompanied by the accumulation of synaptic vesicles. We propose that at least one function of the unc-41 gene relates to the release of neurotransmitters.