In wild-type Caenorhabditis elegans, the hermaphrodite gonad is a symmetrical structure, whereas the male gonad is asymmetric. Two cellular processes are critical for the generation of these sexually dimorphic gonadal shapes during early larval development. First, regulatory "leader" cells that control tube extension and gonadal shape are generated. Second, the somatic gonadal precursor cells migrate and become rearranged to establish the adult pattern. In this paper, we introduce sys-1, a gene required for early organization of the hermaphrodite, but not the male, gonad. The sys-1(q544) allele behaves genetically as a strong loss-of-function mutant and putative null. All hermaphrodites that are homozygous for sys-1(q544) possess a grossly malformed gonad and are sterile; in contrast, sys-1(q544) males exhibit much later and only partially penetrant gonadal defects. The sys-1(q544) hermaphrodites exhibit two striking early gonadal defects. First, the cell lineages of Z1 and Z4, the somatic gonadal progenitor cells, produce extra cells during L2, but the regulatory cells that control gonadal shape are not generated. Second, somatic gonadal precursor cells do not cluster centrally during late L2, and the somatic gonadal primordium typical of hermaphrodites is not established. In contrast, the early male gonadal lineage is asymmetric as normal, the somatic gonadal primordium typical of males is established correctly, and the male adult gonadal structures can be normal. We conclude that the primary role of sys-1 is to establish the shape and polarity of the hermaphrodite gonad.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.