Development of Caenorhabditis elegans pharynx, with emphasis on its nervous system

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2005 Apr;26(4):396-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7254.2005.00070.x.


The Caenorhabditis elegans pharynx is a neuromuscular tube of which the function is to pump and crush bacteria, and inject them into the intestine. The 80-cell pharynx develops via the morphogenesis and differentiation of the cells that compose its semi-spherical primordium, and requires the activity of several evolutionarily conserved genes, such as pha-4 (the homolog to the Drosophila forkhead and vertebrate FoxA), ceh-22 (the homolog to the Drosophila tinman and vertebrate Nkx2.5), and pha-2 (the homolog to the vertebrate Hex). There are 20 neurons in the pharynx, each with a reproducible unique trajectory. Developmental genetic analysis of axon guidance in the pharynx indicates that some axon trajectories are in part established without growth cones, whereas other parts necessitate growth cone function and guidance. Here we provide an overview of the developmental genetics of the Caenorhabditis elegans pharynx, with an emphasis on its nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Helminth
  • Growth Cones / physiology
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pharynx / embryology*
  • Pharynx / metabolism
  • Pharynx / physiology
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Pha-4 protein, C elegans
  • Trans-Activators