Latest chapter of WormBook in GENETICS: Programmed Cell Death During Caenorhabditis elegans Development

Check out the latest chapter of WormBook in GENETICS!

Programmed Cell Death During Caenorhabditis elegans Development
Barbara Conradt, Yi-Chun Wu, Ding Xue
GENETICS August 1, 2016 vol. 203 no. 4 1533-1562; DOI: 10.1534/genetics.115.186247

Programmed cell death is an integral component of Caenorhabditis elegans development. Genetic and reverse genetic studies in C. elegans have led to the identification of many genes and conserved cell death pathways that are important for the specification of which cells should live or die, the activation of the suicide program, and the dismantling and removal of dying cells. Molecular, cell biological, and biochemical studies have revealed the underlying mechanisms that control these three phases of programmed cell death. In particular, the interplay of transcriptional regulatory cascades and networks involving multiple transcriptional regulators is crucial in activating the expression of the key death-inducing gene egl-1 and, in some cases, the ced-3 gene in cells destined to die. A protein interaction cascade involving EGL-1, CED-9, CED-4, and CED-3 results in the activation of the key cell death protease CED-3, which is tightly controlled by multiple positive and negative regulators. The activation of the CED-3 caspase then initiates the cell disassembly process by cleaving and activating or inactivating crucial CED-3 substrates; leading to activation of multiple cell death execution events, including nuclear DNA fragmentation, mitochondrial elimination, phosphatidylserine externalization, inactivation of survival signals, and clearance of apoptotic cells. Further studies of programmed cell death in C. elegans will continue to advance our understanding of how programmed cell death is regulated, activated, and executed in general.

Great new chapter of WormBook in GENETICS!

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.