Anchor cell invasion into the vulval epithelium in C. elegans

Dev Cell. 2003 Jul;5(1):21-31. doi: 10.1016/s1534-5807(03)00168-0.


An understanding of cell-invasive behavior has been limited by the lack of in vivo models where this activity can be clearly visualized and manipulated. We show that a single cell in the Caenorhabditis elegans gonad, the anchor cell (AC), initiates uterine-vulval contact through a cell invasion event. Using genetic analysis, laser ablations, and cell-specific markers, we demonstrate that AC invasion is predominantly stimulated by the 1 degrees vulval lineage cells, which generate a diffusible signal that promotes AC invasive behavior toward these cells and further targets invasive processes between the two central 1 degrees vulval lineage cells. We also show that AC invasion is regulated by the AC response to this cue, as well as a vulval-independent mechanism that weakly drives invasion. These studies dissect the regulatory mechanisms that underlie a simple cell-invasive behavior in vivo, and introduce AC invasion as a model for understanding key checkpoints controlling cell invasion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biomarkers
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Epithelium / embryology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gonads / cytology
  • Gonads / embryology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transgenes
  • Uterus / cytology
  • Uterus / embryology
  • Vulva / cytology
  • Vulva / embryology


  • Biomarkers
  • Cadherins
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins