Developmental control of the cell cycle: Insights from Caenorhabditis elegans

Edward T. Kipreos*, Sander van den Heuvel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During animal development, a single fertilized egg forms a complete organism with tens to trillions of cells that encompass a large variety of cell types. Cell cycle regulation is therefore at the center of development and needs to be carried out in close coordination with cell differentiation, migration, and death, as well as tissue formation, morphogenesis, and homeostasis. The timing and frequency of cell divisions are controlled by complex combinations of external and cell-intrinsic signals that vary throughout development. Insight into how such controls determine in vivo cell division patterns has come from studies in various genetic model systems. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has only about 1000 somatic cells and approximately twice as many germ cells in the adult hermaphrodite. Despite the relatively small number of cells, C. elegans has diverse tissues, including intestine, nerves, striated and smooth muscle, and skin. C. elegans is unique as a model organism for studies of the cell cycle because the somatic cell lineage is invariant. Somatic cells divide at set times during development to produce daughter cells that adopt reproducible developmental fates. Studies in C. elegans have allowed the identification of conserved cell cycle regulators and provided insights into how cell cycle regulation varies between tissues. In this review, we focus on the regulation of the cell cycle in the context of C. elegans development, with reference to other systems, with the goal of better understanding how cell cycle regulation is linked to animal development in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-829
Number of pages33
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Cell cycle
  • Cell lineage
  • DNA replication licensing
  • Proliferation
  • Terminal differentiation
  • WormBook


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