The genetic analysis of the vulval cell lineages of Caenorhabditis elegans
Ferguson, Edwin Louis
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The cell lineages of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegana are essentially invariant among individuals. We have begun an attempt to understand the genetic specification of one particular cell lineage, that of the hermaphrodite vulva. During vulval development, six equipotentlal cells of the ventral hypodermis respond to an inductive signal from the gonadal anchor cell to adopt one of three fates dependent upon position. Thus, the vulva is a model system to study the processes of induction and pattern formation at the level of individual cells. We have isolated over 100 mutants, defining 26 genes, that are abnormal in the vulval cell lineages. These mutants have one of two phenotypes: Vulvaless hermaphrodites lack a vulva; Multivulva hermaphrodites have supernumerary pseudovulvae. Our analysis suggests that we may have identified most, or all, genes that can mutate to a Multivulva or Vulvaless phenotype. We have constructed a genetic pathway of vulval development. Three genes affect the production of vulval precursor cells; one gene affects the formation of the anchor cell; 15 genas are involved in the determination of the fates of the vulval precursor cells in response to the inductive signal; and three genea are necessary for the execution of the vulval cell fates.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution May 1985
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