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Mol Cell. 1999 Nov;4(5):851-8.

A Wnt signaling system that specifies two patterns of cell migration in C. elegans.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0448, USA.


In C. elegans, a bilateral pair of neuroblasts, QL and QR, give rise to cells that migrate in opposite directions along the anteroposterior (A/P) body axis. QL and its descendants migrate posteriorly whereas QR and its descendants migrate anteriorly. We find that a Wnt family member, EGL-20, acts in a dose-dependent manner to specify these opposite migratory behaviors. High levels of EGL-20 promote posterior migration by activating a canonical Wnt signal transduction pathway, whereas low levels promote anterior migration by activating a separate, undefined pathway. We find that the two Q cells respond differently to EGL-20 because they have different response thresholds. Thus, in this system two distinct dose-dependent responses are specified not by graded levels of the Wnt signal, but instead by left-right asymmetrical differences in the cellular responsiveness to Wnt signaling.

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