Precise temporal control of neuroblast migration through combined regulation and feedback of a Wnt receptor

Erik S Schild, Shivam Gupta, Clément Dubois, Euclides E Fernandes Póvoa, Marie-Anne Félix, Andrew Mugler, Hendrik C Korswagen

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Many developmental processes depend on precise temporal control of gene expression. We have previously established a theoretical framework for regulatory strategies that can govern such high temporal precision, but experimental validation of these predictions was still lacking. Here, we use the time-dependent expression of a Wnt receptor that controls neuroblast migration in Caenorhabditis elegans as a tractable system to study a robust, cell-intrinsic timing mechanism in vivo. Single-molecule mRNA quantification showed that the expression of the receptor increases non-linearly, a dynamic that is predicted to enhance timing precision over an unregulated, linear increase in timekeeper abundance. We show that this upregulation depends on transcriptional activation, providing in vivo evidence for a model in which the timing of receptor expression is regulated through an accumulating activator that triggers expression when a specific threshold is reached. This timing mechanism acts across a cell division that occurs in the neuroblast lineage and is influenced by the asymmetry of the division. Finally, we show that positive feedback of receptor expression through the canonical Wnt pathway enhances temporal precision. We conclude that robust cell-intrinsic timing can be achieved by combining regulation and feedback of the timekeeper gene.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023


  • Animals
  • Transcription Factors/metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins/genetics
  • Feedback
  • Caenorhabditis elegans/metabolism
  • Cell Movement/genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental


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