There’s a great new chapter of WormBook in GENETICS by Meera V. Sundaram and Matthew Buechner: The Caenorhabditis elegans Excretory System: A Model for Tubulogenesis, Cell Fate Specification, and Plasticity.
The excretory system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a superb model of tubular organogenesis involving a minimum of cells. The system consists of just three unicellular tubes (canal, duct, and pore), a secretory gland, and two associated neurons. Just as in more complex organs, cells of the excretory system must first adopt specific identities and then coordinate diverse processes to form tubes of appropriate topology, shape, connectivity, and physiological function. The unicellular topology of excretory tubes, their varied and sometimes complex shapes, and the dynamic reprogramming of cell identity and remodeling of tube connectivity that occur during larval development are particularly fascinating features of this organ. The physiological roles of the excretory system in osmoregulation and other aspects of the animal’s life cycle are only beginning to be explored. The cellular mechanisms and molecular pathways used to build and shape excretory tubes appear similar to those used in both unicellular and multicellular tubes in more complex organs, such as the vertebrate vascular system and kidney, making this simple organ system a useful model for understanding disease processes.