Díaz-Balzac CA, Rahman M, Lázaro-Peña MI, Martin Hernandez LA, Salzberg Y, Aguirre-Chen C, Kaprielian Z, Bülow HE.
Sensory dendrite arbors are patterned through cell-autonomously and non-cell-autonomously functioning factors [1-3]. Yet, only a few non-cell-autonomously acting proteins have been identified, including semaphorins [4, 5], brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs) , UNC-6/Netrin , and the conserved MNR-1/Menorin-SAX-7/L1CAM cell adhesion complex [8, 9]. This complex acts from the skin to pattern the stereotypic dendritic arbors of PVD and FLP somatosensory neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans through the leucine-rich transmembrane receptor DMA-1/LRR-TM expressed on PVD neurons [8, 9]. Here we describe a role for the diffusible C. elegans protein LECT-2, which is homologous to vertebrate leukocyte cell-derived chemotaxin 2 (LECT2)/Chondromodulin II. LECT2/Chondromodulin II has been implicated in a variety of pathological conditions [10-13], but the developmental functions of LECT2 have remained elusive. We find that LECT-2/Chondromodulin II is required for development of PVD and FLP dendritic arbors and can act as a diffusible cue from a distance to shape dendritic arbors. Expressed in body-wall muscles, LECT-2 decorates neuronal processes and hypodermal cells in a pattern similar to the cell adhesion molecule SAX-7/L1CAM. LECT-2 functions genetically downstream of the MNR-1/Menorin-SAX-7/L1CAM adhesion complex and upstream of the DMA-1 receptor. LECT-2 localization is dependent on SAX-7/L1CAM, but not on MNR-1/Menorin or DMA-1/LRR-TM, suggesting that LECT-2 functions as part of the skin-derived MNR-1/Menorin-SAX-7/L1CAM adhesion complex. Collectively, our findings suggest that LECT-2/Chondromodulin II acts as a muscle-derived, diffusible cofactor together with a skin-derived cell adhesion complex to orchestrate the molecular interactions of three tissues during patterning of somatosensory dendrites.