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Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01067

Vitellogenins - yolk gene function and regulation in Caenorhabditis elegans

  • 1Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Spain
  • 2Catalan Institute for Research and Advance Studies (ICREA), Spain
  • 3Pompeu Fabra University, Spain

Vitellogenins are a family of yolk proteins that are by far the most abundant among oviparous animals. In the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the 6 vitellogenins are among the most highly expressed genes in the adult hermaphrodite intestine, which produces copious yolk to provision their eggs. In this article we review what is known about the vitellogenin genes and proteins in C. elegans, in comparison with vitellogenins in other taxa. We argue that the primary purpose of abundant vitellogenesis in C. elegans is to support post-embryonic development and fertility, rather than embryogenesis, especially in harsh environments. Increasing vitellogenin provisioning underlies several post-embryonic phenotypic alterations associated with advancing maternal age, demonstrating that vitellogenins can act as an intergenerational signal mediating the influence of parental physiology on progeny. We also review what is known about vitellogenin regulation – how tissue-, sex- and stage-specificity of expression is achieved, how vitellogenins are regulated by major signalling pathways, how vitellogenin expression is affected by extra-intestinal tissues and how environmental experience affects vitellogenesis. Lastly, we speculate whether C. elegans vitellogenins may play other roles in worm physiology.

Keywords: vitellogenin (vit) family, Yolk, Embryogenesis, Regulation - physiological, Roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans)

Received: 10 May 2019; Accepted: 05 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Graziano Fiorito, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy

Reviewed by:

Lindy Holden-Dye, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Makio N. Takeda, Kobe University, Japan  

Copyright: © 2019 Perez and Lehner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Ben Lehner, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona, Spain, lehner.ben@gmail.com