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Volume 3, Pages 1370-1381
Mini-Review Article

Squeezing an Egg into a Worm: C. elegans Embryonic Morphogenesis

Genes and Development Research Group, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Dr. NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 4N1, Canada

Copyright © 2003 A. J. Piekny and P. E. Mains.


We review key morphogenetic events that occur during Caenorhabditis elegans ( embryogenesis. Morphogenesis transforms tissues from one shape into another through cell migrations and shape changes, often utilizing highly conserved actin-based contractile systems. Three major morphogenetic events occur during C. elegans embryogenesis: (1) dorsal intercalation, during which two rows of dorsal epidermal cells intercalate to form a single row; (2) ventral enclosure, where the dorsally located sheet of epidermal cells stretches to the ventral midline, encasing the embryo within a single epithelial sheet; and (3) elongation, during which actin-mediated contractions within the epithelial sheet lengthens the embryo. Here, we describe the known molecular players involved in each of these processes.