Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Developmental Biology 327:2 (March 2009), pp. 419–432.

doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.12.023


Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


Comparative studies of vulva development between Caenorhabditis elegans and other nematode species have provided some insight into the evolution of patterning networks. However, molecular genetic details are available only in C. elegans and Pristionchus pacificus. To extend our knowledge on the evolution of patterning networks, we studied the C. elegans male hook competence group (HCG), an equivalence group that has similar developmental origins to the vulval precursor cells (VPCs), which generate the vulva in the hermaphrodite. Similar to VPC fate specification, each HCG cell adopts one of three fates (1°, 2°, 3°), and 2° HCG fate specification is mediated by LIN-12/Notch. We show that 2° HCG specification depends on the presence of a cell with the 1° fate. We also provide evidence that Wnt signaling via the Frizzled-like Wnt receptor LIN-17 acts to specify the 1° and 2° HCG fate. A requirement for EGF signaling during 1° fate specification is seen only when LIN-17 activity is compromised. In addition, activation of the EGF pathway decreases dependence on LIN-17 and causes ectopic hook development. Our results suggest that WNT plays a more significant role than EGF signaling in specifying HCG fates, whereas in VPC specification EGF signaling is the major inductive signal. Nonetheless, the overall logic is similar in the VPCs and the HCG: EGF and/or WNT induce a 1° lineage, and LIN-12/NOTCH induces a 2° lineage. Wnt signaling is also required for execution of the 1° and 2° HCG lineages. lin-17 and bar-1/β-catenin are preferentially expressed in the presumptive 1° cell P11.p. The dynamic subcellular localization of BAR-1–GFP in P11.p is concordant with the timing of HCG fate determination.