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Cell. 1995 Jul 28;82(2):297-307.

Different levels of the C. elegans growth factor LIN-3 promote distinct vulval precursor fates.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125, USA.


An invariant spatial pattern of three cell fates (3 degrees-3 degrees-2 degrees-1 degree-2 degrees-3 degrees) is generated from a field of multipotent precursor cells during C. elegans vulval development. We demonstrate that the epidermal growth factor-like domain of the LIN-3 protein can induce either of two distinct vulval cell fates: a high dose of LIN-3 induces a 1 degree fate; a lower dose of LIN-3 induces a 2 degrees fate. A high dose of LIN-3 can also induce adjacent vulval precursor cells to assume 1 degree fates; thus, high levels of LIN-3 can override the lateral signaling that normally inhibits formation of adjacent 1 degree fates. We propose that the invariant pattern of vulval cell fates is generated by a graded distribution of LIN-3 that promotes different vulval fates according to local concentration and by a lateral signal that reinforces this initial bias.

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