Caenorhabditis elegans

Introduction to C. elegans as a model for studying basement membranes

C. elegans have many experimental strengths for understanding how basement membranes are formed, function, maintained, and remodelled. C. elegans encode all the major basement membrane matrix proteins and receptors, but the gene families have not undergone the significant expansion found in vertebrates, which simplifies functional analysis.

In addition, using genome editing over 20 basement membrane encoding matrix genes and 12 basement membrane associating receptors have been tagged endogenously with mNeonGreen and many have also been tagged as mRuby, mCherry and the photoconvertible flourophore mEos. Coupled with the optical clarity of C. elegans, these fluorescently tagged proteins allow live imaging of basement membranes and their dynamics.

Finally, there are genetic mutations in all major basement membrane matrix encoding genes and receptors facilitating powerful genetic studies, including genetic enhancer and suppressor screens. RNAi can be also used to conditionally knock down basement membrane components post-embryonically to avoid early lethality.

Labs with a focus on basement membrane research

Sherwood Lab Basement membrane dynamics and cell invasion

Chisholm Lab Wound healing and basement membrane genetics

Nance Lab Germline development

Nishiwaki Lab Basement membrane, proteases, and organ shaping

Key papers

  • Niche Cell Wrapping Ensures Primordial Germ Cell Quiescence and Protection from Intercellular Cannibalism. McIntyre, DC and Nance, J. Curr Biol. 2020 Feb 24. PMID: 32008902
  • Genetic Suppression of Basement Membrane Defects in Caenorhabditis elegans by Gain of Function in Extracellular Matrix and Cell-Matrix Attachment Genes. Gotenstein, JR et al. Genetics. 2018 Apr. PMID: 29440357
  • Basement membranes. Kramer, JM. WormBook. 2005 Sep 1. PMID: 18050423
  • Tissue architecture in the Caenorhabditis elegans gonad depends on interactions among fibulin-1, type IV collagen and the ADAMTS extracellular protease. Kubota, Y et al. Genetics. 2012 Apr. PMID: 22298704
  • α-Integrins dictate distinct modes of type IV collagen recruitment to basement membranes. Jayadev, R et al. J Cell Biol. 2019 Sep 2. PMID: 31387941 
  • Basement Membranes in the Worm: A Dynamic Scaffolding that Instructs Cellular Behaviors and Shapes Tissues. Clay, MR and Sherwood, DR. Curr Top Membr. 2015. PMID: 26610919
  • Basement membrane sliding and targeted adhesion remodels tissue boundaries during uterine-vulval attachment in Caenorhabditis elegans. Ihara, S et al. Nat Cell Biol. 2011. PMID: 21572423 
  • B-LINK: a hemicentin, plakin, and integrin-dependent adhesion system that links tissues by connecting adjacent basement membranes. Morrissey, MA et al. Dev Cell. 2014 Nov 10. PMID: 25443298