Determination of the cleavage plane in early C. elegans embryos

Annu Rev Genet. 2008;42:389-411. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.40.110405.090523.


Cells split in two at the final step of each division cycle. This division normally bisects through the middle of the cell and generates two equal daughters. However, developmental signals can change the plane of cell cleavage to facilitate asymmetric segregation of fate determinants and control the position and relative sizes of daughter cells. The anaphase spindle instructs the site of cell cleavage in animal cells, hence its position is critical in the regulation of symmetric vs asymmetric cell division. Studies in a variety of models identified evolutionarily conserved mechanisms that control spindle positioning. However, how the spindle determines the cleavage site is poorly understood. Recent results in Caenorhabditis elegans indicate dual functions for a Galpha pathway in positioning the spindle and cleavage furrow. We review asymmetric division of the C. elegans zygote, with a focus on microtubule-cortex interactions that position the spindle and cleavage plane.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / genetics
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Cleavage Stage, Ovum / physiology
  • Cytokinesis / genetics
  • Cytokinesis / physiology
  • Meiosis
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spindle Apparatus / genetics
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology