A Wnt signaling system that specifies two patterns of cell migration in C. elegans

Mol Cell. 1999 Nov;4(5):851-8. doi: 10.1016/s1097-2765(00)80394-9.


In C. elegans, a bilateral pair of neuroblasts, QL and QR, give rise to cells that migrate in opposite directions along the anteroposterior (A/P) body axis. QL and its descendants migrate posteriorly whereas QR and its descendants migrate anteriorly. We find that a Wnt family member, EGL-20, acts in a dose-dependent manner to specify these opposite migratory behaviors. High levels of EGL-20 promote posterior migration by activating a canonical Wnt signal transduction pathway, whereas low levels promote anterior migration by activating a separate, undefined pathway. We find that the two Q cells respond differently to EGL-20 because they have different response thresholds. Thus, in this system two distinct dose-dependent responses are specified not by graded levels of the Wnt signal, but instead by left-right asymmetrical differences in the cellular responsiveness to Wnt signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Movement*
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Genes, Helminth / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Hot Temperature
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transgenes / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Egl-20 protein, C elegans
  • Glycoproteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Mab-5 protein, C elegans
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins