Transdifferentiation and remodeling of post-embryonic C. elegans cells by a single transcription factor

Misty R. Riddle, Abraham Weintraub, Ken C.Q. Nguyen, David H. Hall, Joel H. Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Terminally differentiated post-mitotic cells are generally considered irreversibly developmentally locked, i.e. incapable of being reprogrammed in vivo into entirely different cell types. We found that brief expression of a single transcription factor, the ELT-7 GATA factor, can convert the identity of fully differentiated, highly specialized non-endodermal cells of the pharynx into fully differentiated intestinal cells in intact larvae and adult Caenorhabditis elegans. Stable expression of intestine-specific molecular markers parallels loss of markers for the original differentiated pharynx state; hence, there is no apparent requirement for a dedifferentiated intermediate during the transdifferentiation process. Based on high-resolution morphological characteristics, the transdifferentiated cells become remodeled to resemble typical intestinal cells at the level of both the cell surface and internal organelles. Thus, post-mitotic cells, though terminally differentiated, remain plastic to transdifferentiation across germ layer lineage boundaries and can be remodeled to adopt the characteristics of a new cell identity without removal of inhibitory factors. Our findings establish a simple model to investigate how cell context influences forced transdifferentiation of mature cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4844-4849
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2013


  • C. elegans
  • Cellular reprogramming
  • Transdifferentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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