Infoscience

Journal article

Faster embryonic segmentation through elevated Delta-Notch signalling

An important step in understanding biological rhythms is the control of period. A multicellular, rhythmic patterning system termed the segmentation clock is thought to govern the sequential production of the vertebrate embryo's body segments, the somites. Several genetic loss-of-function conditions, including the Delta-Notch intercellular signalling mutants, result in slower segmentation. Here, we generate DeltaD transgenic zebrafish lines with a range of copy numbers and correspondingly increased signalling levels, and observe faster segmentation. The highest-expressing line shows an altered oscillating gene expression wave pattern and shortened segmentation period, producing embryos with more, shorter body segments. Our results reveal surprising differences in how Notch signalling strength is quantitatively interpreted in different organ systems, and suggest a role for intercellular communication in regulating the output period of the segmentation clock by altering its spatial pattern.

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