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Development. 1999 Feb;126(4):691-9.

Formation of the vulva in Caenorhabditis elegans: a paradigm for organogenesis.

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Department of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.


The genes involved in the inductive interactions that specify cell fates in the vulva of Caenorhabditis elegans are known in some detail. However, little is known about the morphogenesis of this organ. Using a combination of cell biological and anatomical approaches, we have determined a complete morphogenetic pathway of cellular events that lead to the formation of the vulva. These events include reproducible cell divisions, migrations, remodeling of adherens junctions, cell fusions and muscle attachments. In the course of these events, an epithelial channel comprising a stack of 7 toroidal cells is formed that connects the internal epithelium of the uterus with the external body epithelium, forming the vulva. Vulval muscles attach to the epithelial channel and the whole structure everts during the final molt. The mature vulva has rotational, two-fold symmetry. Using laser microsurgery, we found that the two halves of the vulva develop autonomously.

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