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Development. 2013 May;140(10):2093-102. doi: 10.1242/dev.091124.

C. elegans GATA factors EGL-18 and ELT-6 function downstream of Wnt signaling to maintain the progenitor fate during larval asymmetric divisions of the seam cells.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.


The C. elegans seam cells are lateral epithelial cells arrayed in a single line from anterior to posterior that divide in an asymmetric, stem cell-like manner during larval development. These asymmetric divisions are regulated by Wnt signaling; in most divisions, the posterior daughter in which the Wnt pathway is activated maintains the progenitor seam fate, while the anterior daughter in which the Wnt pathway is not activated adopts a differentiated hypodermal fate. Using mRNA tagging and microarray analysis, we identified the functionally redundant GATA factor genes egl-18 and elt-6 as Wnt pathway targets in the larval seam cells. EGL-18 and ELT-6 have previously been shown to be required for initial seam cell specification in the embryo. We show that in larval seam cell asymmetric divisions, EGL-18 is expressed strongly in the posterior seam-fated daughter. egl-18 and elt-6 are necessary for larval seam cell specification, and for hypodermal to seam cell fate transformations induced by ectopic Wnt pathway overactivation. The TCF homolog POP-1 binds a site in the egl-18 promoter in vitro, and this site is necessary for robust seam cell expression in vivo. Finally, larval overexpression of EGL-18 is sufficient to drive expression of a seam marker in other hypodermal cells in wild-type animals, and in anterior hypodermal-fated daughters in a Wnt pathway-sensitized background. These data suggest that two GATA factors that are required for seam cell specification in the embryo independently of Wnt signaling are reused downstream of Wnt signaling to maintain the progenitor fate during stem cell-like divisions in larval development.

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