A balance between antagonizing PAR proteins specifies the pattern of asymmetric and symmetric divisions in C. elegans embryogenesis

Cell Rep. 2021 Jul 6;36(1):109326. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109326.


Coordination between cell differentiation and proliferation during development requires the balance between asymmetric and symmetric modes of cell division. However, the cellular intrinsic cue underlying the choice between these two division modes remains elusive. Here, we show evidence in Caenorhabditis elegans that the invariable lineage of the division modes is specified by the balance between antagonizing complexes of partitioning-defective (PAR) proteins. By uncoupling unequal inheritance of PAR proteins from that of fate determinants during cell division, we demonstrate that changes in the balance between PAR-2 and PAR-6 can be sufficient to re-program the division modes from symmetric to asymmetric and vice versa in two daughter cells. The division mode adopted occurs independently of asymmetry in cytoplasmic fate determinants, cell-size asymmetry, and cell-cycle asynchrony between sister cells. We propose that the balance between PAR proteins represents an intrinsic self-organizing cue for the specification of the two division modes during development.

Keywords: C. elegans; PAR proteins; asymmetric cell division; cell polarity; embryo; symmetric cell division.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asymmetric Cell Division*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Polarity
  • Computer Simulation
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Models, Biological
  • Zygote / cytology
  • Zygote / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins