emb-4 is a conserved gene required for efficient germline-specific chromatin remodeling during Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis.
Genetics. 2006 Dec . 174(4):1895-906.
In C. elegans, germline blastomeres are initially kept transcriptionally quiescent by the maternally loaded CCCH zinc-finger protein PIE-1. PIE-1 disappears upon the birth of the primordial germ cells Z2 and Z3, yet these cells appear to remain quiescent. We have previously demonstrated that there is a chromatin-based repression that succeeds PIE-1 degradation. The chromatin in Z2/Z3 loses certain histone modifications, including histone H3 lysine 4 dimethylation (H3K4me2), a conserved marker for transcriptionally competent chromatin. We find that mutations in the maternal-effect gene emb-4 cause defects in both PIE-1 degradation and germline-specific chromatin remodeling. emb-4 encodes a highly conserved protein with orthologs in fly, mouse, and human and has a subtle role in Notch signaling. The embryonic phenotype of emb-4 is consistent with a defect in the efficient and timely activation of developmental programs, including germline chromatin remodeling. We also find that, as in early somatic blastomeres, the degradation of PIE-1 in Z2/Z3 is facilitated by zinc-finger-interacting protein ZIF-1, and in the absence of either zif-1 or emb-4, PIE-1 is abnormally retained in Z2/Z3.