UNC-6 expression by the vulval precursor cells of Caenorhabditis elegans is required for the complex axon guidance of the HSN neurons

Dev Biol. 2007 Apr 15;304(2):800-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.01.028. Epub 2007 Jan 25.


Netrin is an evolutionarily conserved axon guidance molecule that has both axonal attraction and repulsion activities. In Caenorhabditis elegans, Netrin/UNC-6 is secreted by ventral cells, attracting some axons ventrally and repelling some axons, which extend dorsally. One axon guided by UNC-6 is that of the HSN neuron. The axon guidance process for HSN neurons is complex, consisting of ventral growth, dorsal growth, branching, second ventral growth, fasciculation with ventral nerve cords, and then anterior growth. The vulval precursor cells (VPC) and the PVP and PVQ neurons are required for the HSN axon guidance; however, the molecular mechanisms involved are completely unknown. In this study, we found that the VPC strongly expressed UNC-6 during HSN axon growth. Silencing of UNC-6 expression in only the VPC, using a novel tissue-specific RNAi technique, resulted in abnormal HSN axon guidance. The expression of Netrin/UNC-6 by only the VPC in unc-6 null mutants partially rescued the HSN ventral axon guidance. Furthermore, the expression of Netrin/UNC-6 by the VPC and the ventral nerve cord (VNC) in unc-6 null mutants restored the complex HSN axon guidance. These results suggest that UNC-6 expressed by the VPC and the VNC cooperatively regulates the complex HSN axon guidance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Female
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Netrins
  • Vulva / cytology
  • Vulva / innervation
  • Vulva / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Netrins
  • UNC-6 protein, C elegans