Multiple ERK substrates execute single biological processes in Caenorhabditis elegans germ-line development

Swathi Arur, Mitsue Ohmachi, Sudhir Nayak, Matthew Hayes, Alejandro Miranda, Amanda Hay, Andy Golden, Tim Schedl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


RAS-extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) signaling governs multiple aspects of cell fate specification, cellular transitions, and growth by regulating downstream substrates through phosphorylation. Understanding how perturbations to the ERK signaling pathway lead to developmental disorders and cancer hinges critically on identification of the substrates. Yet, only a limited number of substrates have been identified that function in vivo to execute ERK-regulated processes. The Caenorhabditis elegans germ line utilizes the well-conserved RAS-ERK signaling pathway in multiple different contexts. Here, we present an integrated functional genomic approach that identified 30 ERK substrates, each of which functions to regulate one or more of seven distinct biological processes during C. elegans germ-line development. Our results provide evidence for three themes that underlie the robustness and specificity of biological outcomes controlled by ERK signaling in C. elegans that are likely relevant to ERK signaling in other organisms: (i) multiple diverse ERK substrates function to control each individual biological process; (ii) different combinations of substrates function to control distinct biological processes; and (iii) regulatory feedback loops between ERK and its substrates help reinforce or attenuate ERK activation. Substrates identified here have conserved orthologs in humans, suggesting that insights from these studies will contribute to our understanding of human diseases involving deregulated ERK activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4776-4781
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 24 2009


  • Functional genomics
  • MPK-1
  • RNAi screen
  • Signaling


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