Fine structure of the Caenorhabditis elegans secretory-excretory system

J Ultrastruct Res. 1983 Feb;82(2):156-71. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5320(83)90050-3.


The secretory-excretory system of C. elegans, reconstructed from serial-section electron micrographs of larvae, is composed of four cells, the nuclei of which are located on the ventral side of the pharynx and adjacent intestine. (1) The pore cell encloses the terminal one-third of the excretory duct which leads to an excretory pore at the ventral midline. (2) The duct cell surrounds the excretory duct with a lamellar membrane from the origin of the duct at the excretory sinus to the pore cell boundary. (3) A large H-shaped excretory cell extends bilateral canals anteriorly and posteriorly nearly the entire length of the worm. The excretory sinus within the cell body joins the lumena of the canals with the origin of the duct. (4) A binucleate, A-shaped gland cell extends bilateral processes anteriorly from cell bodies located just behind the pharynx. These processes are fused at the anterior tip of the cell, where the cell enters the circumpharyngeal nerve ring. The processes are also joined at the anterior edge of the excretory cell body, where the excretory cell and gland are joined to the duct cell at the origin of the duct. Secretory granules may be concentrated in the gland near this secretory-excretory junction. Although the gland cells of all growing developmental stages stain positively with paraldehyde-fuchsin, the gland of the dauer larva stage (a developmentally arrested third-stage larva) does not stain, nor do glands of starved worms of other stages. Dauer larvae uniquely lack secretory granules, and the gland cytoplasm is displaced by a labyrinth of large, transparent spaces. Exit from the dauer stage results in the return of active secretory morphology in fourth-stage larvae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / ultrastructure
  • Endocrine Glands / ultrastructure
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / ultrastructure
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Intestines / ultrastructure
  • Larva / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Pharynx / ultrastructure