The myoepithelial sheath of the Caenorhabditis elegans somatic gonad has non-striated actomyosin networks that provide contractile forces during ovulation, a process in which a mature oocyte is expelled from the ovary. Troponin T and troponin C are known regulators of contraction of the myoepithelial sheath. These are two of the three components of the troponin complex that is generally considered as a striated-muscle-specific regulator of actomyosin contraction. Here, we report identification of troponin I as the third component of the troponin complex that regulates ovulatory contraction of the myoepithelial sheath. C. elegans has four genes encoding troponin-I isoforms. We found that tni-1 and unc-27 (also known as tni-2) encode two major troponin-I isoforms in the myoepithelial sheath. Combination of RNA interference and mutation of tni-1 and unc-27 resulted in loss of the troponin-I protein in the gonad and caused sterility due to defective contraction of the myoepithelial sheath. Troponin-I-depleted gonads were hypercontracted, which is consistent with the function of troponin I as an inhibitor of actomyosin contraction. Troponin I was associated with non-striated actin networks in a tropomyosin-dependent manner. Our results demonstrate that troponin I regulates contraction of non-striated actomyosin networks and is an essential cytoskeletal component of the C. elegans reproductive system.
- Accepted February 22, 2010.