The nudF and nudC genes of the fungus Aspergillus nidulans encode proteins that are members of two evolutionarily conserved families. In A. nidulans these proteins mediate nuclear migration along the hyphae. The human ortholog of nudF is Lis1, a gene essential for neuronal migration in the developing cerebral cortex. The mammalian ortholog of nudC encodes a protein that interacts with Lis1. We have identified orthologs of nudC and Lis1 from the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Heterologous expression of the C. elegans nudC ortholog, nud-1, complements the A. nidulans nudC3 mutant, demonstrating evolutionary conservation of function. A C. elegans nud-1::GFP fusion produces sustained fluorescence in sensory neurons and embryos, and transient fluorescence in the gonad, gut, vulva, ventral cord, and hypodermal seam cells. Fusion of GFP to C. elegans lis-1 revealed expression in all major neuronal processes of the animal as well as the multinucleate spermathecal valves and adult seam cells. Phenotypic analysis of either nud-1 and lis-1 by RNA interference yielded similar phenotypes, including embryonic lethality, sterility, altered vulval morphology, and uncoordinated movement. Digital time-lapse video microscopy was used to determine that RNAi-treated embryos exhibited nuclear positioning defects in early embryonic cell division similar to those reported for dynein/dynactin depletion. These results demonstrate that the LIS-1/NUDC-like proteins of C. elegans represent a link between nuclear positioning, cell division, and neuronal function. © Springer-Verlag 2001.