Caenorhabditis elegans male spicule morphogenesis requires the coordinated cellular behaviors of several types of cells. We found that the spicule neurons and sheath cells, although important for spicule function, are dispensable for spicule morphology. In contrast, the spicule socket cells are essential for both spicule elongation and formation of spicule cuticle. The socket cells are not only necessary but also sufficient to produce spicule cuticle. This functional aspect of socket cells is genetically separable from their function in mediating spicule elongation: elongated spicules with defective spicule cuticle can be formed. During spicule morphogenesis, the expression of an egl-17::GFP reporter gene is found in the spicule socket cells and its expression appears to be regulated in the socket cells. Mutants defective in TGF-beta signaling display a crumpled spicules phenotype as a result of failure of socket cell movement during spicule morphogenesis. These observations suggest that both the FGF and the TGF-beta signaling pathways might be involved in spicule elongation.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.