DOI: 10.1101/491092Dec 8, 2018Paper

Symmetry breaking in the embryonic skin triggers a directional and sequential front of competence during plumage patterning

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Richard BailleulMarie Manceau


The development of an organism involves the formation of patterns from initially homogeneous surfaces in a reproducible manner. Simulations of various theoretical models recapitulate final states of natural patterns1-4 yet drawing testable hypotheses from those often remains difficult4,5. Consequently, little is known on pattern-forming events. Here, we extend modeling to reproduce not only the final plumage pattern of birds, but also the observed natural variation in its dynamics of emergence in five species. We built a unified model intrinsically generating the directionality, sequence, and duration of patterning, and used in vivo experiments to test its parameter-based predictions. We showed that while patterning duration is controlled by overall cell proliferation, its directional and sequential progression result from a pre-pattern: an initial break in surface symmetry launches a traveling front of increased cell density that defines domains with self-organizing capacity. These results show that universal mechanisms combining pre-patterning and self-organization govern the timely emergence of the plumage pattern in birds.

Related Concepts

Theoretical Model
Cell Proliferation
Research Study
ETV4 gene
In Vivo

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