We have used a LIN-12::GFP fusion protein to examine LIN-12 accumulation during cell fate decisions important for vulval development. During the naturally variable anchor cell (AC)/ventral uterine precursor cell (VU) decision of the somatic gonad, a transcription-based feedback mechanism biases two equivalent cells so that one becomes the AC while the other becomes a VU. LIN-12::GFP accumulation reflects lin-12 transcription: LIN-12::GFP is initially present in both cells, but disappears from the presumptive AC and becomes restricted to the presumptive VU. During vulval precursor cell (VPC) fate determination, six equipotential cells uniformly transcribe lin-12 and have invariant fates that are specified by multiple cell-cell interactions. The pattern of LIN-12::GFP accumulation in VPCs and in the VPC lineages is dynamic and does not always reflect lin-12 transcription. In particular, LIN-12::GFP is expressed initially in all six VPCs, but appears to be reduced specifically in P6.p as a consequence of the activation of the Ras pathway by an EGF-like inductive signal from the AC. We propose that downregulation of LIN-12 stability or translation in response to inductive signalling helps impose a bias on lateral signalling and contributes to the invariant pattern of VPC fates.

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