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Development. 1999 May;126(9):1947-56.

Cell cycle-dependent sequencing of cell fate decisions in Caenorhabditis elegans vulva precursor cells.

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA. victor.ambros@dartmouth.edu


In Caenorhabditis elegans, the fates of the six multipotent vulva precursor cells (VPCs) are specified by extracellular signals. One VPC expresses the primary (1 degrees ) fate in response to a Ras-mediated inductive signal from the gonad. The two VPCs flanking the 1 degrees cell each express secondary (2 degrees ) fates in response to lin-12-mediated lateral signaling. The remaining three VPCs each adopt the non-vulval tertiary (3 degrees ) fate. Here I describe experiments examining how the selection of these vulval fates is affected by cell cycle arrest and cell cycle-restricted lin-12 activity. The results suggest that lin-12 participates in two developmental decisions separable by cell cycle phase: lin-12 must act prior to the end of VPC S phase to influence a 1 degrees versus 2 degrees cell fate choice, but must act after VPC S phase to influence a 3 degrees versus 2 degrees cell fate choice. Coupling developmental decisions to cell cycle transitions may provide a mechanism for prioritizing or ordering choices of cell fates for multipotential cells.

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