The intestine of Caenorhabditis elegans is an epithelial tube consisting of only 20 cells and is derived clonally from a single embryonic blastomere called E. We describe the cellular events that shape the intestine. These events include cytoplasmic polarization of cells in the intestinal primordium, the intercalation of specific sets of cells, the generation of an extracellular cavity within the primordium, and adherens junction formation. The polarization of the intestinal primordium is associated with the generation of an asymmetric microtubule cytoskeleton, and microtubule function plays a role in subsequent cell polarity. We show that an isolated E blastomere is capable of generating polarized intestinal cells, indicating that some of the major events in intestinal organogenesis do not depend upon interactions with surrounding tissues. We compare and contrast intestinal organogenesis with some of the basic steps in development of a second epithelial organ, the pharynx, and suggest how these differences lead to organs with distinct shapes.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.