Wnt signaling controls the stem cell-like asymmetric division of the epithelial seam cells during C. elegans larval development

Dev Biol. 2010 Dec 1;348(1):58-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.09.005. Epub 2010 Sep 16.


Metazoan stem cells repopulate tissues during adult life by dividing asymmetrically to generate another stem cell and a cell that terminally differentiates. Wnt signaling regulates the division pattern of stem cells in flies and vertebrates. While the short-lived nematode C. elegans has no adult somatic stem cells, the lateral epithelial seam cells divide in a stem cell-like manner in each larval stage, usually generating a posterior daughter that retains the seam cell fate and an anterior daughter that terminally differentiates. We show that while wild-type adult animals have 16 seam cells per side, animals with reduced function of the TCF homolog POP-1 have as many as 67 seam cells, and animals with reduced function of the β-catenins SYS-1 and WRM-1 have as few as three. Analysis of seam cell division patterns showed alterations in their stem cell-like divisions in the L2-L4 stages: reduced Wnt signaling caused both daughters to adopt non-seam fates, while activated Wnt signaling caused both daughters to adopt the seam fate. Therefore, our results indicate that Wnt signaling globally regulates the asymmetric, stem cell-like division of most or all somatic seam cells during C. elegans larval development, and that Wnt pathway regulation of stem cell-like behavior is conserved in nematodes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / deficiency
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / deficiency
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Genes, Reporter
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / deficiency
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / genetics
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / physiology*
  • Larva
  • RNA Interference
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Wnt Proteins / physiology*


  • BRO-1 protein, C elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • High Mobility Group Proteins
  • RNT-1 protein, C elegans
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Sys-1 protein, C elegans
  • Transcription Factors
  • WRM-1 protein, C elegans
  • Wnt Proteins
  • bar-1 protein, C elegans
  • pop-1 protein, C elegans