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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2003 Dec;6(6):608-13.

Differentiation of germinal and somatic cells in Volvox carteri.

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Institute for Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Regensburg, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany.


Volvox carteri is a spherical alga with a complete division of labor between around 2000 biflagellate somatic cells and 16 asexual reproductive cells (gonidia). It provides an attractive system for studying how a molecular genetic program for cell-autonomous differentiation is encoded within the genome. Three types of genes have been identified as key players in germ-soma differentiation: a set of gls genes that act in the embryo to shift cell-division planes, resulting in asymmetric divisions that set apart the large-small sister-cell pairs; a set of lag genes that act in the large gonidial initials to prevent somatic differentiation; and the regA gene, which acts in the small somatic initials to prevent reproductive development. Somatic-cell-specific expression of regA is controlled by intronic enhancer and silencer elements.

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