UMMS Affiliation

RNA Therapeutics Institute; Program in Molecular Medicine

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Asymmetric Cell Division


Biochemistry | Cell Biology | Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Genetic Processes | Molecular Biology | Molecular Genetics


C. elegans, with its invariant cell lineage, provides a powerful model system in which to study signaling-dependent asymmetric cell division. The C. elegans β-catenin-related protein, WRM-1, specifies endoderm at the 4-cell stage during the first cell signaling-induced asymmetric cell division of embryogenesis. During this interaction, Wnt signaling and the cell cycle regulator CDK-1 act together to induce the asymmetric cortical release of WRM-1 at prophase of the EMS cell cycle. Genetic studies suggest that release of WRM-1 unmasks a cortical site that drives EMS spindle rotation onto the polarized axis of the cell, simultaneously making WRM-1 available for nuclear translocation, and downstream signaling to specify endoderm. These studies suggest a general paradigm for how cortical factors like WRM-1 can function at the cell cortex to mask potentially confounding polarity cues, and when released with appropriate cell cycle timing, can also function downstream to define cell fate.

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This is an open-access article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. The article may be redistributed, reproduced, and reused for non-commercial purposes, provided the original source is properly cited.

DOI of Published Version



Ishidate T, Kim S, Mello CC, Shirayama M. Inductive asymmetric cell division: The WRM leads the way. Worm 2013; 2:e26276;

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