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The unappreciated generative role of cell movements in pattern formation

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Fulton, Timothy 
Steventon, Benjamin  ORCID logo


The mechanisms underpinning the formation of patterned cellular landscapes has been the subject of extensive study as a fundamental problem of developmental biology. In most cases, attention has been given to situations in which cell movements are negligible, allowing researchers to focus on the cell-extrinsic signalling mechanisms, and intrinsic gene regulatory interactions that lead to pattern emergence at the tissue level. However, in many scenarios during development, cells rapidly change their neighbour relationships in order to drive tissue morphogenesis, while also undergoing patterning. To draw attention to the ubiquity of this problem and propose methodologies that will accommodate morphogenesis into the study of pattern formation, we review the current approaches to studying pattern formation in both static and motile cellular environments. We then consider how the cell movements themselves may contribute to the generation of pattern, rather than hinder it, with both a species specific and evolutionary viewpoint.


Funder: Herschel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship

Funder: Vice Chancellor's Scholarship, Cambridge Trust


Biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, Review articles, cell movements, pattern formation, evolution of complex systems, evo-inspired engineering

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Royal Society Open Science

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The Royal Society
Wellcome Trust (109408/Z/15/Z)
Royal Society (109408/Z/15/Z)