The excretory cell extends a tubular process, or canal, along the basolateral surface of the epidermis to form the nematode renal epithelium. This cell can undergo normal tubulogenesis in isolated cell culture. Mutations in 12 genes cause excretory canal cysts in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetic interactions, and their similar phenotypes, suggest these genes may encode functionally related proteins. Depending upon genotype and individual canal, defects range from focal cysts, flanked by normal width segments, to regional cysts involving the entire tubule. Oftentimes the enlarged regions are convoluted or partially septated. In mutants with very large cysts, renal function is measurably impaired. Based on histology and ultrastructure, canal cysts likely result from defects of the apical membrane domain. These mutants provide a model of tubulocystic disease without hyperplasia or basement membrane abnormalities. Similar apical mechanisms could regulate tubular morphology of vertebrate nephrons.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.