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Embryonic patterning with an oscillating cell population

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A population of genetically oscillating cells termed the segmentation clock is hypothesized to control the rhythmic and sequential formation of vertebrate body segments. Although rhythmically expressed genes are known, without mutations that affect the period of the clock, the role of the oscillator was unclear. Using multiple-embryo time-lapse microscopy of zebrafish embryos, we have identified the first segmentation clock period mutants. These reveal that the period of the segmentation clock is regulated both at the single-cell level and by intercellular signaling. Theoretical analysis shows how delays in the coupling between neighboring clock cells shortens the collective period. Animals with an altered period have fewer and longer body segments, yielding the first direct evidence that the anatomy of the vertebrate is controlled by an oscillatory mechanism. We propose a three-tiered framework for understanding and investigating the segmentation clock as a tissue-level rhythmic pattern generator.

http://www.imprs-mcbb.de/groupleader/oates.html

This talk is part of the Physics of Living Matter PLM6 series.

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