Recent studies have challenged the widespread view that the pattern of embryogenesis found in Caenorhabditis elegans (clade 9) is characteristic of nematodes in general. To understand this still largely unexplored landscape of developmental events, we set out to examine more distantly related nematodes in detail for temporospatial differences in pattern formation and cell specification. Members of the genus Plectus (clade 6) seem to be suitable candidates to show variety, with certain idiosyncratic features during early development and the convenient availability of cultivatable species.
The study was conducted using 4-D lineage analysis, 3-D modeling of developing embryos and laser-induced ablation of individual blastomeres.
Detailed cell lineage studies of several Plectus species reveal that pattern formation and cell fate assignment differ markedly from C. elegans. Descendants of the first somatic founder cell S1 (AB) - but not the progeny of other founder cells - demonstrate extremely variable spatial arrangements illustrating that here distinct early cell-cell interactions between invariant partners, as found in C. elegans, cannot take place. Different from C. elegans, in Plectus alternative positional variations among early S1 blastomeres resulting in a ‘situs inversus’ pattern, nevertheless give rise to adults with normal left-right asymmetries. In addition, laser ablations of early blastomeres uncover inductions between variable cell partners.
Our results suggest that embryonic cell specification in Plectus is not correlated with cell lineage but with position. With this peculiarity, Plectus appears to occupy an intermediate position between basal nematodes displaying a variable early development and the C. elegans-like invariant pattern. We suggest that indeterminate pattern formation associated with late, position-dependent fate assignment represents a plesiomorphic character among nematodes predominant in certain basal clades but lost in derived clades. Thus, the behavior of S1 cells in Plectus can be considered an evolutionary relict in a transition phase between two different developmental strategies.
Nematode; embryogenesis; cell lineage; cell specification; evolution; developmental system drift; Plectus; C. elegans
Through an iterative process of computational modeling, prediction, and experimentation, a molecular synchronization mechanism is revealed by which the cell-cycle regulates Notch signaling to allow the formation of a stable cell fate pattern.
The termination of Notch signaling is tightly linked to cell-cycle progression.Degradation of intracellular Notch is blocked in G1-arrested vulval precursor cells (VPCs).The G1 cyclins CYD-1 and CYE-1 stabilize Notch, while the G2 cyclin CYB-3 promotes Notch degradation.Revealing a synchronization mechanism that coordinates Notch signaling with cell-cycle progression and thus allows the formation of a stable cell fate pattern.Bounded asynchrony achieved through cell-cycle control of signal transduction could be a global principle utilized during the development of multicellular organisms.
C. elegans vulval development is one of the best-characterized systems to study cell fate specification during organogenesis. The detailed knowledge of the signaling pathways determining vulval precursor cell (VPC) fates permitted us to create a computational model based on the antagonistic interactions between the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)/RAS/MAPK and the NOTCH pathways that specify the primary and secondary fates, respectively. A key notion of our model is called bounded asynchrony, which predicts that a limited degree of asynchrony in the progression of the VPCs is necessary to break their equivalence. While searching for a molecular mechanism underlying bounded asynchrony, we discovered that the termination of NOTCH signaling is tightly linked to cell-cycle progression. When single VPCs were arrested in the G1 phase, intracellular NOTCH failed to be degraded, resulting in a mixed primary/secondary cell fate. Moreover, the G1 cyclins CYD-1 and CYE-1 stabilize NOTCH, while the G2 cyclin CYB-3 promotes NOTCH degradation. Our findings reveal a synchronization mechanism that coordinates NOTCH signaling with cell-cycle progression and thus permits the formation of a stable cell fate pattern.
Caenorhabditis elegans; cell cycle; modeling; NOTCH; signal transduction
Lineage based mechanisms are widely used to generate cell type diversity in both vertebrates and invertebrates. For the past few decades, the nematode C. elegans has served as a primary model system to study this process due to its fixed and well characterized cell lineage. Recent studies conducted at the level of single cells and individual cis-regulatory elements suggest a general model by which cellular diversity is generated in this organism. During its developmental history a cell passes through multiple transient regulatory states characterized by the expression of specific sets of transcription factors. The transition from one state to another is driven by a general binary decision mechanism acting at each successive division in a reiterative manner and ending up with the activation of the terminal differentiation program upon terminal division. A similar cell fate specification system seems to play a role in generating cellular diversity in the nervous system of more complex organisms such as Drosophila and vertebrates.
transcription factors; cell fate; lineage; asymmetric division; Wnt; C. elegans
Comparative genomic analysis of important signaling pathways in C. briggase and C. elegans reveals both conserved features and also differences. To build a framework to address the significance of these features we determined the C. briggsae embryonic cell lineage, using the tools StarryNite and AceTree. We traced both cell divisions and cell positions for all cells through all but the last round of cell division and for selected cells through the final round. We found the lineage to be remarkably similar to that of C. elegans. Not only did the founder cells give rise to similar numbers of progeny, the relative cell division timing and positions were largely maintained. These lineage similarities appear to give rise to similar cell fates as judged both by the positions of lineally-equivalent cells and by the patterns of cell deaths in both species. However, some reproducible differences were seen, e.g., the P4 cell cycle length is more than 40% longer in C. briggsae than that in C. elegans (p < 0.01). The extensive conservation of embryonic development between such divergent species suggests that substantial evolutionary distance between these two species has not altered these early developmental cellular events, although the developmental defects of transpecies hybrids suggest that the details of the underlying molecular pathways have diverged sufficiently so as to not be interchangeable.
C. briggsae; C. elegans; embryo; cell lineage; signaling pathway
Embryogenesis is the process by which the embryo is formed, develops, and establishes developmental hierarchies of tissues. The recent advance in microarray technology made it possible to investigate the tissue specific patterns of gene expression and their relationship with tissue lineages. This study is focused on how tissue specific functions, tissue lineage, and cell differentiation are correlated, which is essential to understand embryonic development and organism complexity.
We performed individual gene and gene set based analysis on multiple tissue expression data, in association with the classic topology of mammalian fate maps of embryogenesis. For each sub-group of tissues on the fate map, conservatively, differentially and correlatively expressed genes or gene sets were identified. Tissue distance was found to correlate with gene expression divergence. Tissues of the ectoderm or mesoderm origins from the same segments on the fate map shared more similar expression pattern than those from different origins. Conservatively expressed genes or gene sets define common functions in a tissue group and are related to tissue specific diseases, which is supported by results from Gene Ontology and KEGG pathway analysis. Gene expression divergence is larger in certain human tissues than in the mouse homologous tissues.
The results from tissue lineage and gene expression analysis indicate that common function features of neighbor tissue groups were defined by the conservatively expressed genes and were related to tissue specific diseases, and differentially expressed genes contribute to the functional divergence of tissues. The difference of gene expression divergence in human and mouse homologous tissues reflected the organism complexity, i.e. distinct neural development levels and different body sizes.
A fundamental question in developmental neuroscience is how a collection of progenitor cells proliferates and differentiates to create a brain of the appropriate size and cellular composition. To address this issue, we devised lineage-tracing assays in developing zebrafish embryos to reconstruct entire retinal lineage progressions in vivo and thereby provide a complete quantitative map of the generation of a vertebrate CNS tissue from individual progenitors. These lineage data are consistent with a simple model in which the retina is derived from a set of equipotent retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) that are subject to stochastic factors controlling lineage progression. Clone formation in mutant embryos reveals that the transcription factor Ath5 acts as a molecular link between fate choice and mode of cell division, giving insight into the elusive molecular mechanisms of histogenesis, the conserved temporal order by which neurons of different types exit the cell cycle.
► Method for full live lineage tracing of retinal cells in vivo ► Demonstration that retinal clone growth is representative of retinal growth ► A stochastic model accurately predicts clone growth from equipotent progenitors ► Links between mode of cell division and cell fate help explain histogenesis
A key question in developmental neuroscience is how a collection of progenitors proliferates and differentiates to create a brain of the consistent size and composition. He et al. use lineage tracing to reconstruct the full retinal lineages in vivo and propose a model for stochastic control of lineage progression.
Neural cell fate programs must generate an enormous number of neurons with distinct adult functions. The decision to choose one neuronal subtype from two alternatives--a binary fate decision--is one way to diversify neuronal subtypes during nervous system development. Recent progress has been made in describing the genetic programs that define late-stage neuronal identity. Here, we review mechanisms that control how such fate decisions generate two different post-mitotic, terminally differentiated neuronal subtypes. We survey examples from C. elegans and Drosophila that demonstrate different modes of binary neuronal fate specification that depend on cell division, lineage, stochastic gene expression, or extracellular signals. Comparison of these strategies reveals that, although organisms use diverse approaches to generate neural diversity, some common themes do exist.
From invertebrates to mammals, cell-cycle progression during an asymmetric cell division is accompanied by precisely timed redistribution of cell-fate determinants so that they segregate asymmetrically to enable the two daughter cells to choose different fates. Interestingly, studies on how cell fates are specified in such divisions reveal that the same fate determinants can be reiteratively used to specify a variety of cell types through multiple rounds of cell divisions or to exert seemingly contradictory effects on cell proliferation and differentiation. Here I summarize the molecular mechanisms governing asymmetric cell division and review recent findings pointing to a novel mechanism for coupling intracellular signaling and cell-cycle progression. This mechanism uses changes in the morphology, subcellular distribution and molecular composition of cellular organelles like the Golgi apparatus and centrosomes, which also accompany the progression of cell cycle, to activate but also temporally constrain the activity of fate determinants during asymmetric cell divisions.
In response to sudden environmental stress, B. subtilis cells can defer sporulation for multiple cell cycles using a pulsed positive feedback loop.
Environmental signals induce diverse cellular differentiation programs. In certain systems, cells defer differentiation for extended time periods after the signal appears, proliferating through multiple rounds of cell division before committing to a new fate. How can cells set a deferral time much longer than the cell cycle? Here we study Bacillus subtilis cells that respond to sudden nutrient limitation with multiple rounds of growth and division before differentiating into spores. A well-characterized genetic circuit controls the concentration and phosphorylation of the master regulator Spo0A, which rises to a critical concentration to initiate sporulation. However, it remains unclear how this circuit enables cells to defer sporulation for multiple cell cycles. Using quantitative time-lapse fluorescence microscopy of Spo0A dynamics in individual cells, we observed pulses of Spo0A phosphorylation at a characteristic cell cycle phase. Pulse amplitudes grew systematically and cell-autonomously over multiple cell cycles leading up to sporulation. This pulse growth required a key positive feedback loop involving the sporulation kinases, without which the deferral of sporulation became ultrasensitive to kinase expression. Thus, deferral is controlled by a pulsed positive feedback loop in which kinase expression is activated by pulses of Spo0A phosphorylation. This pulsed positive feedback architecture provides a more robust mechanism for setting deferral times than constitutive kinase expression. Finally, using mathematical modeling, we show how pulsing and time delays together enable “polyphasic” positive feedback, in which different parts of a feedback loop are active at different times. Polyphasic feedback can enable more accurate tuning of long deferral times. Together, these results suggest that Bacillus subtilis uses a pulsed positive feedback loop to implement a “timer” that operates over timescales much longer than a cell cycle.
How long should a cell wait to respond to an environmental change? While many pathways such as those affecting chemotaxis respond to environmental signals quickly, in other contexts a cell may want to defer its response until long after the signal's onset—sometimes waiting multiple cell cycles. How can cells create “timers” to regulate these long deferrals? We study this question in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which responds to stress by transforming into a dormant spore. We show that B. subtilis can defer sporulation for extended time periods by first undergoing multiple rounds of growth and proliferation, and only then sporulating. The timer for this deferral is a pulsed positive feedback loop, which ratchets up the concentration of the sporulation master-regulator Spo0A to a critical level over multiple cell cycles. Finally, using mathematical modeling, we illustrate how a novel dynamic feedback mechanism, “polyphasic positive feedback,” lets cells defer sporulation more robustly than with other circuit strategies. Developing techniques that can access pulsing and time-delay dynamics with higher time resolution will enable us to determine if this polyphasic strategy provides a general design principle for the regulation of multi-cell-cycle deferral times seen in other systems.
The Caenorhabditis elegans β-TrCP orthologue LIN-23 of maternal origin regulates a progressive decline of CDC-25.1 abundance over several embryonic cell-cycles and specifies cell number of one tissue, the embryonic intestine.
Coordination between cell fate specification and cell cycle control in multicellular organisms is essential to regulate cell numbers in tissues and organs during development, and its failure may lead to oncogenesis. In mammalian cells, as part of a general cell cycle checkpoint mechanism, the F-box protein β-transducin repeat-containing protein (β-TrCP) and the Skp1/Cul1/F-box complex control the periodic cell cycle fluctuations in abundance of the CDC25A and B phosphatases. Here, we find that the Caenorhabditis elegans β-TrCP orthologue LIN-23 regulates a progressive decline of CDC-25.1 abundance over several embryonic cell cycles and specifies cell number of one tissue, the embryonic intestine. The negative regulation of CDC-25.1 abundance by LIN-23 may be developmentally controlled because CDC-25.1 accumulates over time within the developing germline, where LIN-23 is also present. Concurrent with the destabilization of CDC-25.1, LIN-23 displays a spatially dynamic behavior in the embryo, periodically entering a nuclear compartment where CDC-25.1 is abundant.
Understanding the mechanisms that coordinate cell proliferation, cell cycle arrest, and cell differentiation is essential to address the problem of how “normal” versus pathological developmental processes take place. In the bristle lineage of the adult fly, we have tested the capacity of post-mitotic cells to re-enter the cell cycle in response to the overexpression of cyclin E. We show that only terminal cells in which the identity is independent of Notch pathway undergo extra divisions after CycE overexpression. Our analysis shows that the responsiveness of cells to forced proliferation depends on both Prospero, a fate determinant, and on the level of Notch pathway activity. Our results demonstrate that the terminal quiescent state and differentiation are regulated by two parallel mechanisms acting simultaneously on fate acquisition and cell cycle progression.
Despite substantial progress that has been made, we still know little about how single precursor cells undergo a limited number of cell divisions before arrest. Discovering the mechanisms by which terminal cells maintain cell division arrest is essential for understanding “normal” development, as well as the origin of pathological deregulations. Using the bristle cell lineage, a model system widely employed to analye cell identity acquisition, we observed that only two out of four terminal cells in this lineage are unable to re-enter the cell cycle and proliferate. Our study shows that in these cells, cell division arrest is maintained by the action of the transcription factor Prospero and the signalling pathway Notch. Since both of these factors also control cell identity in this lineage, this finding demonstrates that common elements acting simultaneously and in parallel regulate the terminal quiescent state and differentiation. This system provides a unique animal model in which to understand how the mechanisms involved in cell fate acquisition and those controlling cell division intermingle to produce cell lineages resulting in terminal cells in the right number and at the right place and time.
Stomata and pavement cells are produced by a series of asymmetric divisions and progressive fate transitions within a stem cell lineage. In Arabidopsis, this process is regulated so that new lineages can be inserted between previously differentiated cells while maintaining stomatal spacing. The small peptide EPIDERMAL PATTERNING FACTOR 1 may be a positional signal secreted by stomatal precursors to modulate behavior of nearby cells. Signal-receiving cells may use TOO MANY MOUTHS and ERECTA family receptors and a MAPK pathway to regulate initiation of new lineages, promote asymmetric division, and control the plane of spacing divisions. Cell fate transitions are controlled by bHLH, MYB and MADS-box transcription factors, and there is evidence of miRNA regulation. These results provide insight into positive and negative influences on stomatal cell transitions and suggest points of potential environmental regulation.
Asymmetric cell division is a developmental process utilized by several organisms. On the most basic level, an asymmetric division produces two daughter cells, each possessing a different identity or fate. Drosophila melanogaster progenitor cells, referred to as neuroblasts, undergo asymmetric division to produce a daughter neuroblast and another cell known as a ganglion mother cell (GMC). There are several features of asymmetric division in Drosophila that make it a very complex process, and these aspects will be discussed at length. The cell fate determinants that play a role in specifying daughter cell fate, as well as the mechanisms behind setting up cortical polarity within neuroblasts, have proved to be essential to ensuring that neurogenesis occurs properly. The role that mitotic spindle orientation plays in coordinating asymmetric division, as well as how cell cycle regulators influence asymmetric division machinery, will also be addressed. Most significantly, malfunctions during asymmetric cell division have shown to be causally linked with neoplastic growth and tumor formation. Therefore, it is imperative that the developmental repercussions as a result of asymmetric cell division gone awry be understood.
Asymmetric cell division; Neuroblasts; Polarity; Determinants; Spindle orientation; Tumorigenesis
Epigenetic control is required to maintain competency for activation and suppression of genes during cell division. Association of regulatory proteins with target gene loci during mitosis is a parameter of epigenetic control that sustains transcriptional regulatory machinery to perpetuate gene expression signatures in progeny cells. Mitotic retention of phenotypic regulatory factors with cell cycle, cell fate and tissue specific genes supports coordinate control that governs proliferation and differentiation for cell fate and lineage commitment.
cell cycle; nuclear microenvironment; gene expression; chromatin; RUNX; intranuclear trafficking
Cell division and cell fate decisions are highly regulated processes that need to be coordinated both spatially and temporally for correct plant growth and development. Gaining a deeper molecular and cellular understanding of these links is especially relevant for plant biology since, unlike in animals, formation of new organs is a process that takes place after embryogenesis and continues throughout the entire plant lifespan. The recent identification of a novel factor, GEM, has provided a molecular framework that coordinates cell division to cell fate in the Arabidopsis epidermis. GEM is an inhibitor of cell division through interacting with CDT1, a DNA replication protein. It also inhibits the expression of the homeobox GLABRA2 (GL2) gene that determines the hair/non-hair fate and the pavement/trichome fate in the root and leaf epidermis, respectively. GEM seems to be crucial in controlling the balance of activating/repressing histone modifications at its target promoters.
cell division; cell cycle; cell fate; GEM; GLABRA2; CDT1; DNA replication; chromatin; histone methylation; gene expression; root hair; Arabidopsis; plant
Early in development, the ocular lens establishes its distinctive architecture, and this is maintained throughout life as the lens continues to grow. This growth is tightly regulated through the proliferation of the lens epithelial cells and their subsequent differentiation into specialised elongated fiber cells. Although much work has been carried out to define these patterns of growth, very little has been reported on the detailed fate and kinetics of lens cells during embryogenesis. Using BrdU-incorporation, the present study has attempted to follow the fate of lens cells that have undergone at least one round of DNA synthesis during the early stages of lens morphogenesis. Results from this work have confirmed that the rate of lens cell proliferation and new fiber cell differentiation progressively slows as the lens differentiates and grows. In addition, these studies have shown that early in lens development, not all DNA synthesis is restricted to the lens epithelium, with some elongating fiber cells retaining the ability to undergo DNA synthesis. Adopting this system we have also been able to place the initiation of secondary fiber cell differentiation in the mouse lens by E12.5, concomitant with the loss of the lens vesicle lumen by the elongating primary fiber cells. Overall, this study has allowed us to revisit some of the mechanisms involved in early lens development, has provided us with insights into the fate of cells during this rapid phase of murine lens growth, and has provided a novel method to study the rate of new fiber cell differentiation over a defined period of lens development and growth.
lens cell proliferation; fiber differentiation; lens growth; BrdU
Casein Kinase I (CKI) is a conserved component of the Wnt signaling pathway that regulates cell fate determination in metazoans. We show that post-embryonic asymmetric division and fate specification of C. elegans epidermal stem cells are controlled by a non-canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, involving the β-catenins WRM-1 and SYS-1, and that C. elegans kin-19/CKIα functions in this pathway. Furthermore, we find that kin-19 is the only member of the Wnt asymmetry pathway that functions with, or in parallel to, the heterochronic temporal patterning pathway to control withdrawal from self-renewal and subsequent terminal differentiation of epidermal stem cells. We show that, except in the case of kin-19, the Wnt asymmetry pathway and the heterochronic pathway function separately and in parallel to control different aspects of epidermal stem cell fate specification. However, given the function of kin-19/CKIα in both pathways, and that CKI, Wnt signaling pathway and heterochronic pathway genes are widely conserved in animals, our findings suggest that CKIα may function as a regulatory hub through which asymmetric division and terminal differentiation are coordinated in adult stem cells of vertebrates.
C. elegans; kin-19; casein kinase Ialpha (CKIα); Wnt; stem cell; asymmetric cell division; heterochronic; temporal identity; terminal differentiation; self-renewal
Bacterial cells have evolved a variety of regulatory circuits that tightly synchronize their chromosome replication and cell division cycles, thereby ensuring faithful transmission of genetic information to their offspring. Complex multicomponent signaling cascades are used to monitor the progress of cytokinesis and couple replication initiation to the separation of the two daughter cells. Moreover, the cell-division apparatus actively participates in chromosome partitioning and, particularly, in the resolution of topological problems that impede the segregation process, thus coordinating chromosome dynamics with cell constriction. Finally, bacteria have developed mechanisms that harness the cell-cycle-dependent positioning of individual chromosomal loci or the nucleoid to define the cell-division site and control the timing of divisome assembly. Each of these systems manages to integrate a complex set of spatial and temporal cues to regulate and execute critical steps in the bacterial cell cycle.
Phospho-signaling cascades coordinate chromosome replication with cytokinesis in bacteria. Cell division proteins help out by directly participating in chromosome partitioning.
POS-1 and GLD-1 are required to repress the Notch homologue glp-1 translation in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. Both proteins bind to overlapping elements in the glp-1 3' UTR. Two POS-1 sites are present within this region, but only one is required for repression in vivo. It is proposed that POS-1 restricts access of other RNA-binding proteins to this region.
RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) coordinate cell fate specification and differentiation in a variety of systems. RNA regulation is critical during oocyte development and early embryogenesis, in which RBPs control expression from maternal mRNAs encoding key cell fate determinants. The Caenorhabditis elegans Notch homologue glp-1 coordinates germline progenitor cell proliferation and anterior fate specification in embryos. A network of sequence-specific RBPs is required to pattern GLP-1 translation. Here, we map the cis-regulatory elements that guide glp-1 regulation by the CCCH-type tandem zinc finger protein POS-1 and the STAR-domain protein GLD-1. Our results demonstrate that both proteins recognize the glp-1 3′ untranslated region (UTR) through adjacent, overlapping binding sites and that POS-1 binding excludes GLD-1 binding. Both factors are required to repress glp-1 translation in the embryo, suggesting that they function in parallel regulatory pathways. It is intriguing that two equivalent POS-1–binding sites are present in the glp-1 3′ UTR, but only one, which overlaps with a translational derepression element, is functional in vivo. We propose that POS-1 regulates glp-1 mRNA translation by blocking access of other RBPs to a key regulatory sequence.
The complete postembryonic ceil lineages of the free-living nentatodes Caenorhabditis elegans and Panagrellus redivivus are known. Postembryonic cell divisions lead to substantial increases in the number of cells and, in most cases, in the number of types of cells in the neuronal, muscular, hypodermal, and digestive systems. The patterns of postembyronic cell divisions are essentially invariant and generate a fixed number of progeny cells of strictly specified fates. Cell fates depend upon both lineage history and cell-cell interactions: lineage limits the developmental potential of each cell and, for certain cells, cell-cell interactions specify which of a small number of alternative potential fates is acquired. Relatively simple differences in cell lineage account for some of the striking differences in gross morphology both between sexes and between species. Genetic studies indicate that these cell lineage differences reflect one or a few relatively simple mutational events. Interspecific differences in cell lineage are likely to be good indicators of evolutionary distance and may be helpful in defining taxonomic relationships. Both the techniques utilized in, and the information acquired from, studies of cell lineages in C. elegans and P. redivivus may prove useful to other hematologists.
Caenorhabditis elegans; Panagrellus redivivus; anatomy; development; taxonomy; evolution
Asymmetric positioning of the mitotic spindle before cytokinesis can produce different-sized daughter cells that have distinct fates. Here, we found an asymmetric division in the Caenorhabditis elegans Q neuroblast lineage that began with a centered spindle but generated different-sized daughters, the smaller (anterior) of which underwent apoptosis. During this division, more myosin II accumulated anteriorly, suggesting that asymmetric contractile forces might produce different-sized daughters. Indeed, partial inactivation of anterior myosin by chromophore-assisted laser inactivation created a more symmetric division and allowed the survival and differentiation of the anterior daughter. Thus, the balance of myosin activity on the two sides of a dividing cell can govern the size and fate of the daughters.
Development normally occurs similarly in all individuals within an isogenic population, but mutations often affect the fate of individual organisms differently1-4. This phenomenon, known as partial penetrance, has been observed in diverse developmental systems. However, it remains unclear how the underlying genetic network specifies the set of possible alternative fates and how the relative frequencies of these fates evolve5-8. Here, we identify a stochastic cell fate determination process that operates in Bacillus subtilis sporulation mutants and show how it allows genetic control of the penetrance of multiple fates. Mutations in an inter-compartmental signaling process generate a set of discrete alternative fates not observed in wild-type cells, including rare formation of two viable “twin” spores, rather than one within a single cell. By genetically modulating chromosome replication and septation, we could systematically tune the penetrance of each mutant fate. Furthermore, signaling and replication perturbations synergize to dramatically increase the penetrance of twin sporulation. These results suggest a potential pathway for developmental evolution between monosporulation and twin sporulation through states of intermediate twin penetrance. Furthermore, time-lapse microscopy of twin sporulation in wild-type Clostridium oceanicum showed a strong resemblance to twin sporulation in these B. subtilis mutants9,10. Together the results suggest that noise can facilitate developmental evolution by enabling the initial expression of discrete morphological traits at low penetrance, and allowing their stabilization by gradual adjustment of genetic parameters.
In homeostasis of adult vertebrate tissues, stem cells are thought to self-renew by infrequent and asymmetric divisions that generate another stem cell daughter and a progenitor daughter cell committed to differentiate. This model is based largely on in vivo invertebrate or in vitro mammal studies. Here we examine the dynamic behaviour of adult hair follicle stem cells in their normal setting by employing mice with repressible H2B-GFP expression to track cell divisions and Cre inducible mice to perform long-term single cell lineage tracing. We provide direct evidence for the infrequent stem cell division model in intact tissue. Moreover, we find that differentiation of progenitor cells occurs at different times and tissue locations than self-renewal of stem cells. Distinct fates of differentiation or self-renewal are assigned to individual cells in a temporal-spatial manner. We propose that large clusters of tissue stem cells behave as populations, whose maintenance involves unidirectional daughtercell fate decisions.
Each sensory ray of the C. 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 is 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, as 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.
The Retinoblastoma gene product (Rb) has been shown to regulate the transcription of key genes involved in cell growth and proliferation. Consistent with this, mutations in Rb are associated with numerous types of cancer making it a critical tumour suppressor gene. Its function is conferred through a large multiprotein complex that exhibits a dual function in both activation and repression of gene targets. In C. elegans, the Rb orthologue lin-35 functions redundantly with other transcriptional regulators to appropriately specify both vulval and pharyngeal cell fates.
In C. elegans the intestinal cells must alter their cell cycle from the mitotic cell divisions typical of embryogenesis to karyokinesis and then endoreplication, which facilitates growth during larval development. While screening for genes that affect the ability of the intestinal cells to appropriately make this cell cycle transition during post-embryonic development, we isolated mutants that either compromise this switch and remain mononucleate, or cause these cells to undergo multiple rounds of nuclear division. Among these mutants we identified a novel allele of lin-35/Rb, while we also found that the components of the synMuv B complex, which are involved in vulval specification, are also required to properly regulate the developmentally-controlled cell cycle transition typical of these intestinal cells during larval development. More importantly, our work uncovered a role for certain members of the pathways involved in RNAi in mediating the efficient transition between these cell cycle programs, suggesting that lin-35/Rb cooperates with these RNAi components. Furthermore, our findings suggest that met-2, a methyltransferase as well as hpl-1 and hpl-2, two C. elegans homologues of the heterochromatin protein HP1 are also required for this transition.
Our findings are consistent with lin-35/Rb, synMuv and RNAi components cooperating, probably through their additive effects on chromatin modification, to appropriately modulate the expression of genes that are required to switch from the karyokinesis cell cycle to endoreplication; a highly specified growth pathway in the intestinal epithelium. The lin-35/Rb repressor complex may be required to initiate this process, while components of the RNAi machinery positively reinforce this repression.