Targeted single-cell induction of gene products in Caenorhabditis elegans: a new tool for developmental studies

J Exp Zool. 1993 Jul 1;266(3):227-33. doi: 10.1002/jez.1402660309.


Heat shock promoters have been employed to achieve tightly regulated expression of transformed genes in a wide variety of model systems including tissue culture cells, bacteria, yeast, Drosophila, and more recently Caenorhabditis elegans. Here we investigate the feasibility of using a laser microbeam to induce a sub-lethal heat shock response in individual cells of C. elegans. We demonstrate that in transgenic strains carrying heat shock promoter-lacZ fusions, single cell expression of beta-galactosidase in a variety of cell types of endodermal, mesodermal, or ectodermal origin can be achieved after pulsing with a laser. A tissue-general, inducible promoter can therefore be converted into one of single cell specificity which can be induced rapidly at any point in development, offering unique opportunities to study cell-cell interactions in C. elegans. This technique defines a new approach to generate mosaic animals and may be adaptable to other organisms or tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Developmental Biology / methods*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Lac Operon
  • Lasers
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • beta-Galactosidase