Research and


The germ line is where genomic changes transit from one generation to the next, so it sits at the interface between developmental and evolutionary biology. Our work builds on discoveries about how the C. elegans germ line stem cell niche is formed and how it regulates stem cells.

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We are undertaking a mechanistic investigation of how niche-adjacent cells regulate niche function, how stem cells shape their niche, and how the niche supports stem cells as it migrates during larval development. 

The stem cell niche

Gordon KL (2020). Recent advances in the genetic, anatomical, and environmental regulation of the C. elegans germ line progenitor zone.J. Dev. Biol. 2020, 8(3), 14;

Gordon KL, Zussman JW, Li X, Miller C, Sherwood DR. (2020). Stem cell niche exit in C. elegans via orientation and segregation of daughter cells by a cryptic cell outside the niche. eLife. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.56383.  

Gordon KL*, Linden-High LM*, Payne SG*, Pani AM, Goldstein B, Hubbard JA, Sherwood DR. (2019). Ectopic germ cells induce niche-like E-cadherin- and L1CAM-mediated cell enwrapment by body wall muscle. Current Bio. 29(5): 823-833.  

Gordon KL (2021). News &Views: Fatal decision made under pressure. Nat. Phys.

Linden, LM, Gordon KL, Pani AM, Payne SG, Garde A, Burkholder D, Chi Q, Goldstein B, Sherwood DR (2017). Identification of regulators of germ stem cell enwrapment by its niche in C. elegans. Dev Biol. 429(1):271-284.

Evolution of genes and gene expression

The lab's second line of research into the partitioning of function by gene duplicates will begin with a case study of a pair of recently duplicated genes that have distinct expression dynamics and functions in the stem cell niche. Approaching questions of evolutionary biology with the techniques of cell biology and developmental genetics will yield unique insights into how the raw material of gene duplication is deployed at the cellular level to support germ line stem cells.


Gordon KL, Arthur RK, Ruvinsky I (2015). Phylum-level conservation of regulatory information in nematodes despite extensive non-coding sequence divergence. PLoS Genet 11(5): e1005268.

Barrière A, Gordon KL, Ruvinsky I (2012). Coevolution within and between regulatory loci can preserve promoter function despite evolutionary rate acceleration. PLOS Genet 8(9): e1002961.

Gordon KL, Ruvinsky I (2012). Tempo and mode in evolution of transcriptional regulation. PLOS Genet 8(1): e1002432.

Barrière A*, Gordon KL*, Ruvinsky I (2011). Distinct functional constraints partition sequence conservation in a cis-regulatory element. PLOS Genet 7(6): e1002095.

Collaborations: making

humanized worms 

We collaborate with Dr. Jessica Hartman, formerly of the Meyer Lab at Duke on projects related to exercise, metabolism, and toxicity by making transgenic worms that express human proteins or tagged worm proteins. 

Hartman J, Christopher T. Richie, C, Gordon K, Mello D, Castillo P, Zhu A, Wang Y,.Hoffer B, Sherwood D, Meyer J, Harvey B. (2019). MANF deletion abrogates early larval Caenorhabditis elegans stress response to tunicamycin and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. EJCB.

Hartman, J, Smith L, Gordon K, Laranjeiro R, Driscoll M, Sherwood D, Meyer J. (2018). Swimming exercise and transient food deprivation in Caenorhabditis elegans promote mitochondrial maintenance and protect against chemical-induced mitotoxicity. Scientific Reports. 8(1): 8359.