Direct cellular reprogramming in Caenorhabditis elegans: facts, models, and promises for regenerative medicine

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. Jan-Feb 2012;1(1):138-52. doi: 10.1002/wdev.7. Epub 2011 Nov 17.


In vitro systems of cellular reprogramming [induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and direct reprogramming or transdifferentiation] are rapidly improving our repertoire of molecular techniques that can force cells in culture to change into a desired identity. However, the new frontier for regenerative medicine is in vivo cellular reprogramming, which in light of concerns about the safety of in vitro cell manipulations, is an increasingly attractive approach for regenerative medicine. Powerful in vivo approaches are currently being undertaken in the genetic model Caenorhabditis elegans. Several very distinct cell types have been induced to change or have been discovered to transform naturally, into altogether different cell types. These examples have improved our understanding of the fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms that permit cell identity changes in live animals. In addition, the combination of a stereotyped lineage with single cell analyses allows dissection of the early and intermediate mechanisms of reprogramming, as well as their kinetics. As a result, several important concepts on in vivo cellular reprogramming have been recently developed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastomeres / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Transdifferentiation
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Regenerative Medicine


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins