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Dev Biol. 2001 Jul 15;235(2):410-21.

The Caenorhabditis elegans gene lin-26 can trigger epithelial differentiation without conferring tissue specificity.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/ULP, F-67404 Illkirch Cedex, C.U. de Strasbourg, France.


How epithelial cell fates become specified is poorly understood. We have previously shown that the putative C2H2 zinc-finger transcription factor LIN-26 is required for the differentiation of ectodermal and mesodermal epithelial cells in Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we report that ectopic LIN-26 expression during early gastrulation transforms most blastomeres into epithelial-like cells. Specifically, LIN-26 induced the expression of three epithelial markers: the adherens junction protein JAM-1; DLG-1, which is essential for the assembly of JAM-1 at junctions; and CHE-14, which is involved in apical trafficking. Furthermore, ultrastructural studies revealed that ectopic LIN-26 expression induced the formation of adherens-like junctions. However, ectopic lin-26 expression did not confer any tissue-specific cell fate, such as the epidermal cell fate, as evidenced from the observation that several epidermal-specific genes were not induced. Conversely, we show that epidermal cells displayed some polarity defects in lin-26 mutants. We conclude that lin-26 can induce epithelial differentiation and that epitheliogenesis is not a default pathway in C. elegans.

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