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WormBook. 2007 Mar 19:1-15.

The cuticle.

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Institute of Comparative Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow G61 1QH Scotland, UK.


The nematode cuticle is an extremely flexible and resilient exoskeleton that permits locomotion via attachment to muscle, confers environmental protection and allows growth by molting. It is synthesised five times, once in the embryo and subsequently at the end of each larval stage prior to molting. It is a highly structured extra-cellular matrix (ECM), composed predominantly of cross-linked collagens, additional insoluble proteins termed cuticlins, associated glycoproteins and lipids. The cuticle collagens are encoded by a large gene family that are subject to strict patterns of temporal regulation. Cuticle collagen biosynthesis involves numerous co- and post-translational modification, processing, secretion and cross-linking steps that in turn are catalysed by specific enzymes and chaperones. Mutations in individual collagen genes and their biosynthetic pathway components can result in a range of defects from abnormal morphology (dumpy and blister) to embryonic and larval death, confirming an essential role for this structure and highlighting its potential as an ECM experimental model system.

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