Spatiotemporal gene expression analysis of the caenorhabditis elegans germline uncovers a syncytial expression switch

Yonatan B. Tzur, Eitan Winter, Jinmin Gao, Tamar Hashimshony, Itai Yanai, Monica P. Colaiácovo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Developmental programs are executed by tightly controlled gene regulatory pathways. Here, we combined the unique sample retrieval capacity afforded by laser capture microscopy with analysis of mRNA abundance by CEL-Seq (cell expression by linear amplification and sequencing) to generate a spatiotemporal gene expression map of the Caenorhabditis elegans syncytial germline from adult hermaphrodites and males. We found that over 6000 genes exhibit spatiotemporally dynamic expression patterns throughout the hermaphrodite germline, with two dominant groups of genes exhibiting reciprocal shifts in expression at late pachytene during meiotic prophase I. We found a strong correlation between restricted spatiotemporal expression and known developmental and cellular processes, indicating that these gene expression changes may be an important driver of germ cell progression. Analysis of the male gonad revealed a shift in gene expression at early pachytene and upregulation of subsets of genes following the meiotic divisions, specifically in early and late spermatids, mostly transcribed from the X chromosome. We observed that while the X chromosome is silenced throughout the first half of the gonad, some genes escape this control and are highly expressed throughout the germline. Although we found a strong correlation between the expression of genes corresponding to CSR-1-interacting 22G-RNAs during germ cell progression, we also found that a large fraction of genes may bypass the need for CSR-1-mediated germline licensing. Taken together, these findings suggest the existence of mechanisms that enable a shift in gene expression during prophase I to promote germ cell progression.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)587-605
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the Genetics Society of America.


  • C. elegans
  • Gametogenesis
  • Gene expression
  • Germline
  • Meiosis
  • Oogenesis
  • Spermatogenesis


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