Phenotypic plasticity and remodeling in the stress-induced Caenorhabditis elegans dauer

Rebecca J. Androwski, Kristen M. Flatt, Nathan E. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Organisms are often capable of modifying their development to better suit their environment. Under adverse conditions, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans develops into a stress-resistant alternative larval stage called dauer. The dauer stage is the primary survival stage for C. elegans in nature. Large-scale tissue remodeling during dauer conveys resistance to harsh environments. The environmental and genetic regulation of the decision to enter dauer has been extensively studied. However, less is known about the mechanisms regulating tissue remodeling. Changes to the cuticle and suppression of feeding in dauers lead to an increased resistance to external stressors. Meanwhile reproductive development arrests during dauer while preserving the ability to reproduce once favorable environmental conditions return. Dramatic remodeling of neurons, glia, and muscles during dauer likely facilitate dauer-specific behaviors. Dauer-specific pulsation of the excretory duct likely mediates a response to osmotic stress. The power of C. elegans genetics has uncovered some of the molecular pathways regulating dauer tissue remodeling. In addition to genes that regulate single remodeling events, several mutants result in pleiotropic defects in dauer remodeling. This review details the individual aspects of morphological changes that occur during dauer formation and discusses molecular mechanisms regulating these processes. The dauer stage provides us with an excellent model for understanding phenotypic plasticity and remodeling from the individual cell to an entire animal. WIREs Dev Biol 2017, 6:e278. doi: 10.1002/wdev.278. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere278
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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