Nematode cuticles are extracellular matrices (ECMs) that function as structural support and permeability barriers. Genetic disruption of specific cuticle collagen structures or secreted epidermal proteins in C. elegans activates stress response genes in epithelial cells suggesting the presence of an extracellular damage signaling mechanism. Cuticles are replaced during development via molting but investigations of extracellular signaling to stress responses have focused on adults. In our current study, we measured cuticle phenotypes and stress response gene expression in all post-embryonic stages of mutant strains for a collagen and two secreted epidermal proteins to gain insights into developmental patterns.
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