Morphologically defined substages of tail morphogenesis in C. elegans males

Karin Kiontke, Porfirio Fernandez, Alyssa Woronik, David H.A. Fitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sex-specific morphogenesis occurs in Caenorhabditis elegans in the vulva of the hermaphrodite and in the male tail during the last larval stage. Temporal progression of vulva morphogenesis has been described in fine detail. However, a similar precise description of male tail morphogenesis was lacking. Results: We here describe morphogenesis of the male tail at time points matching vulva development with special focus on morphogenesis of the tail tip. Using fluorescent reporters, we follow changes in cell shapes, cell fusions, nuclear migration, modifications in the basement membrane, and formation of a new apical extracellular matrix at the end of the tail. Conclusion: Our analysis answers two open questions about tail tip morphogenesis (TTM) by showing that one of the four tail tip cells, hyp11, remains largely separate, while the other cells fully fuse with each other and with two additional tail cells to form a ventral tail syncytium. This merger of cells begins at the apical surface early during TTM but is only completed toward the end of the process. This work provides a framework for future investigations of cell biological factors that drive male tail morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • apical extracellular matrix
  • basement membrane
  • cell fusion
  • developmental timing
  • nuclear migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology


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