Cuticle Collagen Expression Is Regulated in Response to Environmental Stimuli by the GATA Transcription Factor ELT-3 in Caenorhabditis elegans Academic Article uri icon

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  • The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is protected from the environment by the cuticle, an extracellular collagen-based matrix that encloses the animal. Over 170 cuticular collagens are predicted in the C. elegans genome, but the role of each individual collagen is unclear. Stage-specific specialization of the cuticle explains the need for some collagens; however, the large number of collagens suggests that specialization of the cuticle may also occur in response to other environmental triggers. Missense mutations in many collagen genes can disrupt cuticle morphology, producing a helically twisted body causing the animal to move in a stereotypical pattern described as rolling. We find that environmental factors, including diet, early developmental arrest, and population density can differentially influence the penetrance of rolling in these mutants. These effects are in part due to changes in collagen gene expression that are mediated by the GATA family transcription factor ELT-3. We propose a model by which ELT-3 regulates collagen gene expression in response to environmental stimuli to promote the assembly of a cuticle specialized to a given environment.


  • Mesbahi, Hiva
  • Pho, Kim B
  • Tench, Andrea J
  • Leon Guerrero, Victoria L
  • MacNeil, Lesley

publication date

  • June 2020