Cell shape changes are crucial for metazoan development. During Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis, epidermal cell shape changes transform ovoid embryos into vermiform larvae. This process is divided into two phases: early and late elongation. Early elongation involves the contraction of filamentous actin bundles by phosphorylated non-muscle myosin in a subset of epidermal (hypodermal) cells. The genes controlling early elongation are associated with two parallel pathways. The first one involves the rho-1/RHOA-specific effector let-502/Rho-kinase and mel-11/myosin phosphatase regulatory subunit. The second pathway involves the CDC42/RAC-specific effector pak-1. Late elongation is driven by mechanotransduction in ventral and dorsal hypodermal cells in response to body-wall muscle contractions, and involves the CDC42/RAC-specific Guanine-nucleotide Exchange Factor (GEF) pix-1, the GTPase ced-10/RAC and pak-1. In this study, pix-1 is shown to control early elongation in parallel with let-502/mel-11, as previously shown for pak-1. We show that pix-1, pak-1 and let-502 control the rate of elongation, and the antero-posterior morphology of the embryos. In particular, pix-1 and pak-1 are shown to control head, but not tail width, while let-502 controls both head and tail width. This suggests that let-502 function is required throughout the antero-posterior axis of the embryo during early elongation, while pix-1/pak-1 function may be mostly required in the anterior part of the embryo. Supporting this hypothesis we show that low pix-1 expression level in the dorsal-posterior hypodermal cells is required to ensure high elongation rate during early elongation.
Martin, E., Harel, S., Nkengfac, B., Hamiche, K., Neault, M., & Jenna, S. (2014). Pix-1 controls early elongation in parallel with mel-11 and let-502 in Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS ONE, 9(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094684