Apoptosis and gastrulation are critical biological events required for normal development of multicellular animals. As a glycobiologist, you may easily imagine that both of these phenomena involve specific carbohydrate recognition, but actually it is rather difficult to prove. The nematode C. elegans seems to be an ideal model animal for such a proof, because its complete cell lineages have already been established, and more recently, the genome project for this organism has been accomplished. In addition, vulval formation which consists of invagination of epitherial cells underlying the cuticular layer into the inner tissues has been well studied. Essentially, this process is analogous to gastrulation. Recently, 8 genes names sqv-1
-8 have been identified as those involved in normal vulval formation by a representative C. elegans genetic group [Herman, T., Hartwieg, E., and Horvitz, R. (1999) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 96, 968-973]. To our surprise, it turned out that three of the (sqv-3
,7,8) were quite similar to the known mammalian genes encoding glucuronyltransferase, galactose transferase, and sugar nucleotide transporter [Herman, T., and Horvitz, R. (1999) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. US 96, 974-979].