Sex myoblast migration in C. elegans hermaphrodites is controlled by multiple guidance mechanisms. A gonad-dependent attraction functions to guide the sex myoblasts to their precise final positions flanking the gonad. In the absence of this attraction, a gonad-dependent repulsion is revealed. In addition to gonad-dependent influences, a gonad-independent mechanism propels the sex myoblasts anteriorly to a broad range of positions near the center of the animal. Here we describe a temporal analysis of sex myoblast migration that reveals when the gonad-dependent attraction and the gonad-independent mechanisms normally function. We provide evidence that EGL-17, a fibroblast growth factor-like protein, is expressed in the gonadal cells required to attract the sex myoblasts to their precise final positions, further supporting our model that EGL-17 defines the gonad-dependent attractant. Furthermore, cell ablation experiments reveal that EGL-17 and the gonad-dependent repellent likely emanate from the same cellular sources. Analyses of candidate mutations for their effects on the gonad-dependent repulsion reveal that a set of genes known to affect multiple aspects of axonogenesis, unc-14, unc-33, unc-44, and unc-51, is essential for this repulsive mechanism. In addition, we have discovered that a SAX-3/Roundabout-dependent mechanism is used to maintain the sex myoblasts along the ventral muscle quadrants.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.