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Curr Biol. 2008 Jan 22;18(2):142-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.12.048.

Wnt signaling induces vulva development in the nematode Pristionchus pacificus.

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Department for Evolutionary Biology, Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 37, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The Caenorhabditis elegans vulva is induced by a member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family that is expressed in the gonadal anchor cell, representing a prime example of signaling processes in animal development. Comparative studies indicated that vulva induction has changed rapidly during evolution. However, nothing was known about the molecular mechanisms underlying these differences. By analyzing deletion mutants in five Wnt pathway genes, we show that Wnt signaling induces vulva formation in Pristionchus pacificus. A Ppa-bar-1/beta-catenin deletion is completely vulvaless. Several Wnt ligands and receptors act redundantly in vulva induction, and Ppa-egl-20/Wnt; Ppa-mom-2/Wnt; Ppa-lin-18/Ryk triple mutants are strongly vulvaless. Wnt ligands are differentially expressed in the somatic gonad, the anchor cell, and the posterior body region, respectively. In contrast, previous studies indicated that Ppa-lin-17, one of the Frizzled-type receptors, has a negative role in vulva formation. We found that mutations in Ppa-bar-1 and Ppa-egl-20 suppress the phenotype of Ppa-lin-17. Thus, an unexpected complexity of Wnt signaling is involved in vulva induction and vulva repression in P. pacificus. This study provides the first molecular identification of the inductive vulva signal in a nematode other than Caenorhabditis.

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