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Keywords:

  • transdifferentiation;
  • direct reprogramming;
  • epigenetics;
  • germ line;
  • direct cell type conversion;
  • C. elegans

Abstract

Achieving controlled reprogramming of differentiated cells into a desired cell type would open new opportunities in stem-cell biology and regenerative medicine. Experimentation on cell reprogramming requires a model in which cell conversion can be induced and tracked individually. The tiny nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, owing to its known cellular lineage, allows the study of direct cell type conversion with a single-cell resolution. Indeed, recent advances have shown that despite its invariant cell lineage, cellular identities can be reprogrammed, leading to cell conversion in vivo. In addition, natural transdifferentiation events occur in the worm, providing a powerful model for the study of cellular plasticity in a physiological cellular microenvironment. Here, we review pioneer studies on induced and naturally occurring reprogramming events in C. elegans and the new notions that have emerged. genesis 50:1-17, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.