ABSTRACT

Few studies have measured the robustness to perturbations of the final position of a long-range migrating cell. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the QR neuroblast migrates anteriorly, while undergoing three division rounds. We study the final position of two of its great-granddaughters, the end of migration of which was previously shown to depend on a timing mechanism. We find that the variance in their final position is similar to that of other long-range migrating neurons. As expected from the timing mechanism, the position of QR descendants depends on body size, which we varied by changing maternal age or using body size mutants. Using a mathematical model, we show that body size variation is partially compensated for. Applying environmental perturbations, we find that the variance in final position increased following starvation at hatching. The mean position is displaced upon a temperature shift. Finally, highly significant variation was found among C. elegans wild isolates. Overall, this study reveals that the final position of these neurons is quite robust to stochastic variation, shows some sensitivity to body size and to external perturbations, and varies in the species.

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