In each gonadal arm of wild-type C. elegans hermaphrodites, the somatic distal tip cell (DTC) maintains distal germline nuclei in mitosis, while proximal nuclei enter meiosis. We have identified two conditions under which a proximal somatic cell, the anchor cell (AC), inappropriately maintains proximal germline nuclei in mitosis: when defined somatic gonadal cells have been ablated in wild type, and in lin-12 null mutants. Laser ablations and mosaic analysis indicate that somatic gonadal cells neighboring the AC normally require lin-12 activity to prevent the inappropriate AC-germline interaction. The AC-germline interaction, like the DTC-germline interaction, requires glp-1 activity. In one model, we propose that the AC sends an intercellular signal intended to interact with the lin-12 product in somatic gonadal cells; when lin-12 activity is absent, the signal interacts instead with the related glp-1 product in germline. Our data illustrate the importance of mechanisms that prevent inappropriate interactions during development.