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Dev Biol. 2009 Sep 15;333(2):337-47. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.07.005. Epub 2009 Jul 14.

The C. elegans engrailed homolog ceh-16 regulates the self-renewal expansion division of stem cell-like seam cells.

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College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, PR China.


Stem cells undergo symmetric and asymmetric division to maintain the dynamic equilibrium of the stem cell pool and also to generate a variety of differentiated cells. The homeostatic mechanism controlling the choice between self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells is poorly understood. We show here that ceh-16, encoding the C. elegans ortholog of the transcription factor Engrailed, controls symmetric and asymmetric division of stem cell-like seam cells. Loss of function of ceh-16 causes certain seam cells, which normally undergo symmetric self-renewal expansion division with both daughters adopting the seam cell fate, to divide asymmetrically with only one daughter retaining the seam cell fate. The human engrailed homolog En2 functionally substitutes the role of ceh-16 in promoting self-renewal expansion division of seam cells. Loss of function of apr-1, encoding the C. elegans homolog of the Wnt signaling component APC, results in transformation of self-renewal maintenance seam cell division to self-renewal expansion division, leading to seam cell hyperplasia. The apr-1 mutation suppresses the seam cell division defect in ceh-16 mutants. Our study reveals that ceh-16 interacts with the Wnt signaling pathway to control the choice between self-renewal expansion and maintenance division and also demonstrates an evolutionarily conserved function of engrailed in promoting cell proliferation.

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