The Wnt/ -Catenin Asymmetry Pathway Patterns the Atonal Ortholog lin-32 to Diversify Cell Fate in a Caenorhabditis elegans Sensory Lineage

Center for Neural Development and Disease, Department of Biomedical Genetics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.34). 09/2011; 31(37):13281-91. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6504-10.2011
Source: PubMed


Each sensory ray of the Caenorhabditis elegans male tail comprises three distinct neuroglial cell types. These three cells descend from a single progenitor, the ray precursor cell, through several rounds of asymmetric division called the ray sublineage. Ray development requires the conserved atonal-family bHLH gene lin-32, which specifies the ray neuroblast and promotes the differentiation of its progeny. However, the mechanisms that allocate specific cell fates among these progeny are unknown. Here we show that the distribution of LIN-32 during the ray sublineage is markedly asymmetric, localizing to anterior daughter cells in two successive cell divisions. The anterior-posterior patterning of LIN-32 expression and of differentiated ray neuroglial fates is brought about by the Wnt/β-catenin asymmetry pathway, including the Wnt ligand LIN-44, its receptor LIN-17, and downstream components LIT-1 (NLK), SYS-1 (β-catenin), and POP-1 (TCF). LIN-32 asymmetry itself has an important role in patterning ray cell fates, because the failure to silence lin-32 expression in posterior cells disrupts development of this branch of the ray sublineage. Together, our results illustrate a mechanism whereby the regulated function of a proneural-class gene in a single neural lineage can both specify a neural precursor and actively pattern the fates of its progeny. Moreover, they reveal a central role for the Wnt/β-catenin asymmetry pathway in patterning neural and glial fates in a simple sensory lineage.

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