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Dev Biol. 2006 Apr 1;292(1):142-51. Epub 2006 Feb 15.

Quantitative analysis of germline mitosis in adult C. elegans.

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Department of Biology, New York University, 100 Washington Square East, 1009 Silver Center, New York, NY 10003, USA.


Certain aspects of the distal gonad of C. elegans are comparable to niche/stem cell systems in other organisms. The distal tip cell (DTC) caps a blind-ended tube; only the distal germ cells maintain proliferation in response to signaling from the DTC via the GLP-1/Notch signaling pathway in the germ line. Fruitful comparison between this system and other stem cell systems is limited by a lack of basic information regarding germ cell division behavior in C. elegans. Here, we explore the spatial pattern of cell division frequency in the adult C. elegans germ line relative to distance from the distal tip. We mapped the positions of actively dividing germline nuclei in over 600 fixed gonad preparations including the wild type and a gain-of-function ligand-responsive GLP-1 receptor mutant with an extended mitotic zone. One particularly surprising observation from these data is that the frequency of cell divisions is lower in distal-most cells-cells that directly contact the distal tip cell body-relative to cells further proximal, a difference that persists in the gain-of-function GLP-1 mutant. These results suggest that cell division frequency in the distal-most cells may be suppressed or otherwise controlled in a complex manner. Further, our data suggest that the presence of an active cell division influences the probability of observing simultaneous cell divisions in the same gonad arm, and that simultaneous divisions tend to cluster spatially. We speculate that this system behaves similarly to niche/stem cell/transit amplifying cell systems in other organisms.

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