Asymmetric cell division and axis formation in the embryo.

Pierre Gönczy, Lesilee S. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Asymmetric cell divisions play an important role in generating diversity during metazoan development. In the early C. elegans embryo, a series of asymmetric divisions are crucial for establishing the three principal axes of the body plan (AP, DV, LR) and for segregating determinants that specify cell fates. In this review, we focus on events in the one-cell embryo that result in the establishment of the AP axis and the first asymmetric division. We first describe how the sperm-derived centrosome initiates movements of the cortical actomyosin network that result in the polarized distribution of PAR proteins. We then briefly discuss how components acting downstream of the PAR proteins mediate unequal segregation of cell fate determinants to the anterior blastomere AB and the posterior blastomere P1. We also review how a heterotrimeric G protein pathway generates cortically based pulling forces acting on astral microtubules, thus mediating centrosome and spindle positioning in response to AP polarity cues. In addition, we briefly highlight events involved in establishing the DV and LR axes. The DV axis is established at the four-cell stage, following specific cell-cell interactions that occur between P2 and EMS, the two daughters of P1, as well as between P2 and ABp, a daughter of AB. The LR axis is established shortly thereafter by the division pattern of ABa and ABp. We conclude by mentioning how findings made in early C. elegans embryos are relevant to understanding asymmetric cell division and pattern formation across metazoan evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalWormBook : the online review of C. elegans biology
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Asymmetric cell division and axis formation in the embryo.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this