Temporal reiteration of a precise gene expression pattern during nematode development

EMBO J. 1996 Jul 15;15(14):3633-9.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is contained within a multifunctional exoskeleton, the cuticle, that contains a large number of distinct collagens. As the nematode proceeds from the egg through four larval stages to the adult, transition between larval stages is marked by synthesis of a new cuticle and subsequent moulting of the old one. This is a cyclically repeated developmental event, frequently described as the moulting cycle. We have examined the temporal expression of a group of six genes encoding distinct cuticular collagens. As expected, mRNA abundance for each of the six genes tested is found to oscillate, peaking once during each larval stage. Unexpectedly, the periods of abundance for each gene do not coincide, different genes being expressed at different times relative to one another within the moulting cycle. We detect a programme of temporally distinct waves of collagen gene expression, the precise pattern of which is repeated during each of the four larval stages. This multiphasic pattern of oscillating cuticular collagen gene expression indicates an unexpected complexity of temporal control during the nematode moulting cycle and has implications for collagen trimerization and cuticle synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Collagen / genetics*
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Helminth*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Larva
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA / analysis
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Time Factors


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • RNA
  • Collagen