Timing of embryonic patterning dictated by synchronized waves

When scientists synchronized the Wnt and Notch waves with an external rhythm, segmentation in the developing embryo ceased.
By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 22, 2018 at 3:59 PM
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Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The embryonic development features a progression, or pattern -- timing and rhythm are essential to the transformation of a single cell into a complex organism.

New research suggests this cellular choreography is orchestrated by a pair of synchronized waves, vibrations controlled by a pair of pathways called Wnt and Notch.

In order for an organism to form properly during embryonic development, new cells must form at just the right time and in the proper position. By manipulating the Wnt and Notch waves, scientists were able to showcase the importance of timing to the embryo's transformation.

In the lab, researchers measured Wnt and Notch signaling pathway activity in mice embryos. Scientists found activity corresponded with the segmentation of cells. The synchronization and overlapping of the Wnt and Notch waves harmonize with the formation of new cellular segments.

When scientists synchronized the Wnt and Notch waves with an external rhythm, segmentation in the developing embryo ceased.

The researchers published their discovery this week in the journal Cell.

"It's the first time that we've been able to directly test the importance of timing in developing systems," lead researcher Alexander Aulehla, a scientist at European Molecular Biology Laboratory, said in a news release. "This shows that vital information for the development of an embryo is encoded in dynamic, oscillating signals."

Scientists suggest a disruption of the rhythm controlled by Wnt and Notch could explain developmental disorders and other problems.

"In the future, this approach could be used to test the importance of rhythm in other contexts -- for example in stem cells and disease states, where the same signaling pathways are in place," Aulehla said.

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