Germ granules are ribonucleoprotein particles that are thought to function in germline specification in invertebrates and possibly in vertebrates. In Caenorhabditis elegans, these structures, termed P granules, are partitioned to the germline P cells during the early embryonic divisions. By injecting a fluorescently labelled anti-P-granule antibody into the C. elegans germline syncitium, we followed P-granule segregation in live embryos using laser-scanning confocal microscopy. We show that, in early P cells (P0 and P1), P-granule partitioning is achieved primarily by their migration through the cytoplasm towards the site of formation of the germline daughter cell. A different mechanism appears to operate in later P cells (P2 and P3): P granules associate with the nucleus and move with it toward the site of formation of the germline daughter cell, where they are then deposited. At each division, there is also disassembly or degradation of those P granules that remain in the cytoplasm destined for the somatic daughter cell. Microfilaments, microtubules and the product of the gene mes-1 are required for the normal pattern of P-granule segregation in P2.

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