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Time and time again - The regulation of segmentation clock period in zebrafish

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Coupled biological oscillators can synchronise to form a clock, collectively ticking with the same period. How this collective period is regulated is a key question in understanding biological clocks. This regulation was explored in the segmentation clock, a population of coupled cellular oscillators in the vertebrate embryo that sets the rhythm of somitogenesis, the morphological segmentation of the body axis. The oscillating cells of the segmentation clock possess autonomous and noisy periods, which are synchronised by Delta- Notch intercellular coupling. Disruption of Delta-Notch signalling increases the period of zebrafish somitogenesis. Communication between oscillating cells may therefore be a key factor regulating segmentation clock period. Using a theory based on coupled phase oscillators, we estimate the cell-autonomous period and the delay in coupling from the experimental data. We propose that collective control over period may be a general feature of biological clocks.

This talk is part of the MRC LMB Neurobiology Seminars series.

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