T. W. Mullan, T. Felton, J. Tam, O. Kasem, J. T. Yeung, N. Memar, R. Schnabel, R. J. Poole

Control of successive unequal cell divisions by neural cell fate regulators determines embryonic neuroblast cell size

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology

Asymmetric cell divisions often generate daughter cells of unequal size in addition to different fates. In some contexts, daughter cell size asymmetry is thought to be a key input to specific binary cell fate decisions. An alternative possibility is that unequal division is a mechanism by which a variety of cells of different sizes are generated during embryonic development. We show here that two unequal cell divisions precede neuroblast formation in the C lineage of C. elegans. The equalisation of these divisions in a pig-1/MELK mutant background has little effect on neuroblast specification. Instead, we reveal let-19/MDT13 as a novel regulator of the proneural bHLH transcription factor hlh-14/ASCL1 and find that both are required to concomitantly regulate the acquisition of neuroblast identity and neuroblast cell size. Thus, embryonic neuroblast cell size in this lineage is progressively regulated in parallel with identity by key neural cell fate regulators. We propose that key cell fate determinants have a novel function to regulate unequal cleavage and therefore cell size of the progenitor cells whose daughter cell fates they then go on to specify.

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