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Genes Dev. 2008 Aug 15;22(16):2149-65. doi: 10.1101/gad.1701508.

C. elegans dauer formation and the molecular basis of plasticity.

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Huffington Center on Aging, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Because life is often unpredictable, dynamic, and complex, all animals have evolved remarkable abilities to cope with changes in their external environment and internal physiology. This regulatory plasticity leads to shifts in behavior and metabolism, as well as to changes in development, growth, and reproduction, which is thought to improve the chances of survival and reproductive success. In favorable environments, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans develops rapidly to reproductive maturity, but in adverse environments, animals arrest at the dauer diapause, a long-lived stress resistant stage. A molecular and genetic analysis of dauer formation has revealed key insights into how sensory and dietary cues are coupled to conserved endocrine pathways, including insulin/IGF, TGF-beta, serotonergic, and steroid hormone signal transduction, which govern the choice between reproduction and survival. These and other pathways reveal a molecular basis for metazoan plasticity in response to extrinsic and intrinsic signals.

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