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Dev Biol. 2005 Jan 1;277(1):200-21.

Gonadogenesis in Pristionchus pacificus and organ evolution: development, adult morphology and cell-cell interactions in the hermaphrodite gonad.

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  • 1Max-Planck Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abteilung Evolutionsbiologie, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany. david.rudel@tuebingen.mpg.de


The nematode gonad is an exemplary system for the study of organogenesis and fundamental problems in developmental and cellular biology. Nematode gonads vary dramatically across species (Chitwood, B.G., Chitwood, M.B., 1950. Introduction to Nematology." University Park Press, Baltimore; Felix, M.A., Sternberg, P.W., 1996. Symmetry breakage in the development of one-armed gonads in nematodes. Development 122, 2129-2142). As such, comparative developmental biology of gonadogenesis offers the potential to investigate changes in developmental and cellular processes that result in novel organ morphologies and thus may give insights into how these changes can affect animal bauplane. Pristionchus pacificus is a free-living nematode that diverged from the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans around 200-300 million years ago. The morphology and development of P. pacificus is highly homologous to that of C. elegans. However, many differences in morphology and the underlying molecular signaling networks are easy to identify, making P. pacificus ideal for a comparative approach. Here, we report a detailed description of the P. pacificus hermaphrodite gonad using electron and fluorescent microscopy that will provide a basis for both phenotypic studies of genetic mutations and in vivo molecular studies of cloned genes involved in P. pacificus gonad development. We report that the morphology of the P. pacificus gonad is distinct from that of C. elegans. Among these differences are germ line patterning differences, heterochronic differences, novel gonadal arm-migrations, novel cellular composition of some somatic tissues (e.g., the number of cells that comprise the sheath and different spermathecal regions are different), the absence of a somatic tissue (e.g., the spermathecal valve cells), a novel architecture for the sheath, and changes in the cellular and sub-cellular morphology of the individual sheath cells. Additionally, we report a set of cell ablations in P. pacificus that indicate extensive cell communication between the somatic gonadal tissues and the germ line. Individual ablation experiments in P. pacificus show significant differences in the effects of individual somatic tissues on germ line patterning in comparison to C. elegans.

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