During animal development, cellular morphogenesis plays a fundamental role in determining the shape and function of tissues and organs. Identifying the components that regulate and drive morphogenesis is thus a major goal of developmental biology. The four-celled tip of the Caenorhabditis elegans male tail is a simple but powerful model for studying the mechanism of morphogenesis and its spatiotemporal regulation. Here, through a genome-wide post-embryonic RNAi-feeding screen, we identified 212 components that regulate or participate in male tail tip morphogenesis. We constructed a working hypothesis for a gene regulatory network of tail tip morphogenesis. We found regulatory roles for the posterior Hox genes nob-1 and php-3, the TGF-β pathway, nuclear hormone receptors (e.g. nhr-25), the heterochronic gene blmp-1, and the GATA transcription factors egl-18 and elt-6. The majority of the pathways converge at dmd-3 and mab-3. In addition, nhr-25 and dmd-3/mab-3 regulate each others' expression, thus placing these three genes at the center of a complex regulatory network. We also show that dmd-3 and mab-3 negatively regulate other signaling pathways and affect downstream cellular processes such as vesicular trafficking (e.g. arl-1, rme-8) and rearrangement of the cytoskeleton (e.g. cdc-42, nmy-1, and nmy-2). Based on these data, we suggest that male tail tip morphogenesis is governed by a gene regulatory network with a bow-tie architecture.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research