Germ-granule components prevent somatic development in the C. elegans germline

Curr Biol. 2014 May 5;24(9):970-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.015. Epub 2014 Apr 17.


Specialized ribonucleoprotein organelles collectively known as germ granules are found in the germline cytoplasm from worms to humans [1]. In Drosophila, germ granules have been implicated in germline determination [2]. C. elegans germ granules, known as P granules, do not appear to be required for primordial germ cell (PGC) determination [3], but their components are still needed for fertility [4-6]. One potential role for P granules is to maintain germline fate and totipotency. This is suggested by the loss of P granules from germ cells that transform into somatic cell types, e.g., in germlines lacking MEX-3 and GLD-1 or upon neuronal induction by CHE-1 [7, 8]. However, it has not been established whether loss of P granules is the cause or effect of cell fate transformation. To test cause and effect, we severely compromised P granules by simultaneously knocking down factors that nucleate granule formation (PGL-1 and PGL-3) and promote their perinuclear localization (GLH-1 and GLH-4) [9] and investigated whether this causes germ cells to lose totipotency and initiate somatic reprogramming. We found that compromising P granules causes germ cells to express neuronal and muscle markers and send out neurite-like projections, suggesting that P granules maintain totipotency and germline identity by antagonizing somatic fate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / genetics*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism*
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / biosynthesis
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / genetics
  • Germ Cells / growth & development*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • CHE-1 protein, C elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • GLD-1 protein, C elegans
  • MEX-3 protein, C elegans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • PGL-1 protein, C elegans
  • PGL-3 protein, C elegans
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • UNC-119 protein, C elegans
  • GLH-1 protein, C elegans
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases