Time and space in segmentation.

Change log

Arthropod segmentation and vertebrate somitogenesis are leading fields in the experimental and theoretical interrogation of developmental patterning. However, despite the sophistication of current research, basic conceptual issues remain unresolved. These include: (i) the mechanistic origins of spatial organization within the segment addition zone (SAZ); (ii) the mechanistic origins of segment polarization; (iii) the mechanistic origins of axial variation; and (iv) the evolutionary origins of simultaneous patterning. Here, I explore these problems using coarse-grained models of cross-regulating dynamical processes. In the morphogenetic framework of a row of cells undergoing axial elongation, I simulate interactions between an 'oscillator', a 'switch' and up to three 'timers', successfully reproducing essential patterning behaviours of segmenting systems. By comparing the output of these largely cell-autonomous models to variants that incorporate positional information, I find that scaling relationships, wave patterns and patterning dynamics all depend on whether the SAZ is regulated by temporal or spatial information. I also identify three mechanisms for polarizing oscillator output, all of which functionally implicate the oscillator frequency profile. Finally, I demonstrate significant dynamical and regulatory continuity between sequential and simultaneous modes of segmentation. I discuss these results in the context of the experimental literature.

Drosophila, clock and wavefront, dynamics, patterning, segmentation, somitogenesis
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The Royal Society
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/P009336/1)