Stem cells generate the differentiated progeny cells of adult tissues. Stem cells in the Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite germline are maintained within a proliferative zone of ~230 cells, ~20 cell diameters in length, through GLP-1 Notch signaling. The distal tip cell caps the germline and supplies GLP-1 -activating ligand, and the distal-most germ cells that occupy this niche are likely self-renewing stem cells with active GLP-1 signaling. As germ cells are displaced from the niche, GLP-1 activity likely decreases, yet mitotically cycling germ cells are found throughout the proliferative zone prior to overt meiotic differentiation. Following loss of GLP-1 activity, it remains unclear whether stem cells undergo transit-amplifying (TA) divisions or more directly enter meiosis. To distinguish between these possibilities we employed a temperature-sensitive (ts) glp-1 mutant to manipulate GLP-1 activity. We characterized proliferative zone dynamics in glp-1(ts) mutants at permissive temperature and then analyzed the kinetics of meiotic entry of pro-liferative zone cells after loss of GLP-1. We found that entry of proliferative zone cells into meiosis following loss of GLP-1 activity is largely synchronous and independent of their distal-proximal position. Furthermore, the majority of cells complete only a single mitotic division before entering meiosis, independent of their distal-proximal position. We conclude that germ cells do not undergo TA divisions following loss of GLP-1 activity. We present a model for the dynamics of the proliferative zone that utilizes cell cycle rate and proliferative zone size and output and incorporates the more direct meiotic differentiation of germ cells following loss of GLP-1 activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-184
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Differentiation
  • GLP-1 Notch
  • Germline
  • Meiosis
  • Proliferation
  • Stem cells


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