Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 377, Issue 3, pp 383–396 | Cite as

The C. elegans intestine: organogenesis, digestion, and physiology

  • Ivan Dimov
  • Morris F. MaduroEmail author


The comparatively simple Caenorhabditis elegans intestine fulfills many of the complex functions of the mammalian digestive tract, liver, and fat tissues, while also having roles in pathogen defense, immunity, and longevity. In this review, we describe the structure of the C. elegans gut and how it develops from the embryonic precursor E. We examine what is currently known about how the animal’s microbial diet is moved through the intestinal lumen, and how its enzymatic functions contribute to physiology and metabolism. The underlying gene regulatory networks behind both development and physiology are also described. Finally, we consider recent studies that examine metabolism and digestion and describe emerging areas for future work.


Digestion Nematode Invertebrate Intestine Metabolism C. elegans 



We apologize to the many colleagues whose work we could not cite for space reasons. The light and fluorescence microscopy images in Fig. 1 were provided by Gina Broitman-Maduro.


Work done in the Maduro lab that was cited here was funded by NSF Grant IOS No. 1258054.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Informed consent

Not applicable.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Program in Cell, Molecular and Developmental BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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