Cell polarity in one-cell C. Elegans Embryos: Ensuring an accurate and precise spatial axis during development

Martin Mikl, Carrie R. Cowan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Cell polarity in one-cell C. elegans embryos guides an asymmetric cell division that starts the resulting cells along different developmental paths. Cell polarization starts in response to a signal from the centrosomes, triggering a cellwide reorganization of the cortex. Functionally, the most notable change is the establishment of two mutually exclusive, antagonistic cortical domains, each composed of distinct PAR proteins. PAR proteins are a diverse but generally conserved group of polarity regulators that exert their polarizing effects through different downstream components. In one-cell C. elegans embryos, PAR polarity dictates the asymmetric segregation of fate determinants in the cytoplasm and controls the position of the cleavage furrow, allowing for unequal cell division. C. elegans embryos have been informative in identifying cell polarity factors, largely because embryo development is invariant and thus deviations from normal are easy to detect. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the invariance of C. elegans polarization results from parallel pathways and backup mechanisms that ensure robustness when components vary or the system is compromised. Recent work now points to a significant role of protein homeostasis in the accuracy and precision of polarity establishment in C. elegans, raising questions about the regulatory circuits that underlie this robustness.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCell Polarity 2
Subtitle of host publicationRole in Development and Disease
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9783319144665
ISBN (Print)9783319144658
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015.


  • Centrosome
  • Fate determinant
  • PAR protein
  • Protein homeostasis
  • Robustness
  • Symmetry breaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Medicine (all)


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