Sequential pattern formation governed by signaling gradients.

Physical Biology
David J JörgFrank Jülicher


Rhythmic and sequential segmentation of the embryonic body plan is a vital developmental patterning process in all vertebrate species. However, a theoretical framework capturing the emergence of dynamic patterns of gene expression from the interplay of cell oscillations with tissue elongation and shortening and with signaling gradients, is still missing. Here we show that a set of coupled genetic oscillators in an elongating tissue that is regulated by diffusing and advected signaling molecules can account for segmentation as a self-organized patterning process. This system can form a finite number of segments and the dynamics of segmentation and the total number of segments formed depend strongly on kinetic parameters describing tissue elongation and signaling molecules. The model accounts for existing experimental perturbations to signaling gradients, and makes testable predictions about novel perturbations. The variety of different patterns formed in our model can account for the variability of segmentation between different animal species.


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