Morphogenesis of the caenorhabditis elegans vulva.
Understanding how cells move, change shape, and alter cellular behaviors to form organs, a process termed morphogenesis, is one of the great challenges of developmental biology. Formation of the Caenorhabditis elegans vulva is a powerful, simple, and experimentally accessible model for elucidating how morphogenetic processes produce an organ. In the first step of vulval development, three epithelial precursor cells divide and differentiate to generate 22 cells of 7 different vulval subtypes. The 22 vulval cells then rearrange from a linear array into a tube, with each of the seven cell types undergoing characteristic morphogenetic behaviors that construct the vulva. Vulval morphogenesis entails many of the same cellular activities that underlie organogenesis and tissue formation across species, including invagination, lumen formation, oriented cell divisions, cell–cell adhesion, cell migration, cell fusion, extracellular matrix remodeling, and cell invasion. Studies of vulval development have led to pioneering discoveries in a number of these processes and are beginning to bridge the gap between the pathways that specify cells and their connections to morphogenetic behaviors. The simplicity of the vulva and the experimental tools available in C. elegans will continue to make vulval morphogenesis a powerful paradigm to further our understanding of the largely mysterious mechanisms that build tissues and organs.
Schindler, AJ; Sherwood, DR
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