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Similar to other nematodes, the life cycle of C.

elegans is comprised of the

embryonic stage,
four larval stages (L1-L4) and

end of each larval stage is marked with a molt

new, stage- specific cuticle is synthesized and the old one is shed. Which means the
cuticle ultrastructure and protein composition differ at each molt

Molting is accomplished in three steps;

Step 1- the separation of old cuticle from the hypodermis (apolysis),

Step 2- the formation of new cuticle arising from the hypodermis, and

Step 3- the shedding of the old cuticle (ecdysis).

Postembryonic development is triggered by feeding of the larva after hatching. In the

presence of food, cell divisions resume and postembryonic developmental program begins

Of the 671 nuclei generated in the embryo, 113 undergo programmed death in the course of
development , resulting in the total number of 558. About 10% of the remaining 558 cells in a
newly hatched larva (51 in hermaphrodites, 55 in the male), are blast cells that divide further

If the embryos hatch in the absence of food, however, they arrest development until food
becomes available, and survive up to 6-10 days without feeding

At the end of L2 stage, the animal may enter an arrested state called the dauer larva if the
environmental conditions are not favorable for further growth.

Environmental factors, including the presence of a pheromone (an indicator of population

density), absence of food, and high temperature act as signals that can trigger formation of a
morphologically distinct L2 stage larva

During the dauer state, feeding is arrested indefinitely and locomotion is markedly reduced. The
dauer state ends when the animal experiences favorable conditions.

Approximately at 45-50 hrs posthatch, a newly matured hermaphrodite lays its first cells, hence
completing its 3-day reproductive life cycle
GAmeto genesis

Adult C. elegans hermaphrodite, highlighting the reproductive system, which contains two U-
shaped gonad arms connected by a common uterus.

The distal end of each gonad arm is capped by a somatic distal tip cell (DTC) that covers
the distal end of the germline, containing the proliferative zone (yellow).

A surface view of the left side U-shaped gonad arm shows the five pairs of somatic gonadal
sheath cells covering the area from the transition zone to the spermatheca.

On the right side, the gonad arm is shown without the sheath cells. The green cells represent
the germ cells in meiotic prophase I, the purple cells represent the developing oocytes, the
proximal darker blue area is the spermath- eca, and the clear embryos are found within the
uterus. (Bottom)

A detailed view of one adult hermaphrodite gonad arm is shown. The upper part of the arm is
shown as a surface view without the covering sheath cells. The transition zone is visible as a
light green color. The lower part of the gonad is an internal view of the proximal region
including the sheath cells. The oocytes closest to the loop are connected to the central rachis
(light blue, also see Fig. 1.4), which allow cytoplasmic material to enter, while the proximal 45
oocytes closest to the spermatheca are fully cellularized.
Embryonic development:

The sperm are amoeboid, with no agellum or acrosome. Oocytes are fertilized before the
rst meiotic division, and the initiation of matura- tion, with germinal vesicle breakdown,
depends on a Major Sperm Protein released from nearby sperm.

The sperm can enter the oocyte at any position and the point of sperm entry de nes the
future posterior of the zygote.

An early sign of this is the appearance of a smooth posterior cortical region, while
the remainder of the egg cortex becomes ruflled

completion of both meiotic divisions, there is a cytoplasmic rearrangement whereby

internal cytoplasm moves posteriorly and cortical cytoplasm moves anteriorly.

This is associated with a pseudocleavage or formation of a furrow, which does \

not progress to a full cleavage. \

early cleavages are asymmetrical (Fig. 12.3). The rst forms an anterior AB and posterior
P1 cell.


forms ABa and ABp behaves in a reiterated manner, keeping a

P-like daugh- ter (successively called P2,
P3, P4) while cutting off the EMS, C, and
D blastomeres.

nal P cell (P4) is the germ cell precur- sor,

dividing only once more in embryonic life
to become Z2 and Z3, which generate all
the germ cells of larva and adult.

egg contains RNA-rich P-granules, which are initially randomly dispersed but which
concentrate in the posterior

during the cytoplasmic rearrangement period. During each suc- cessive division these
granules concentrate in the region that will become the new P cell.
Of the original founder cells, AB, MS, and C all produce a variety of cell types

while the others generate a single cell type: P4 becoming the germ line, E becom- ing the
gut, and D becoming muscle.

Gastrulation in C. elegans is rather atypical and prolonged but can be considered as

starting at the 26-cell stage when the two E cells move into the interior, in an autonomous
invagination process.

The of cial germ layers are:

ectoderm: AB, Caa, Cpa;

mesoderm: MS, Cap, Cpp, D;

endoderm: E.

However, AB produces the pharyngeal muscles, which would

normally be considered a mesodermal type, and MS produces some pharyngeal neurons,

which would normally be considered ectodermal.