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J Theor Biol. 2000 Aug 7;205(3):505-10.

A clock and trail model for somite formation, specialization and polarization.

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Récepteurs et Cognition, CNRS URA 2182, Institut Pasteur, 25, rue du Docteur Roux, Paris Cedex 15, F-75724, France.


We present some theoretical considerations about the initial process of pre-patterning during embryonic segmentation, with particular reference to somite formation. We first suggest that the pre-pattern is a stable spatial sinusoidal (or, at least, periodic) wave. The periodic wave originates from an oscillator ("clock") in the proliferative region that gives rise to the cells. At the moment the cells leave the proliferative or "progress" zone, or somewhat later, a permanent record is made of the current state of the oscillation, which cells then keep during their pre-somitic phase, before explicit somite and somite boundary formation. Thus, a trail is left behind the progress zone in the form of a spatial sine wave. Second, we also observe that the factors involved in the progress-zone clock and its wave-like trail may form multimers, which will oscillate with higher space-time frequency and thus shorter wavelengths than the monomers. Whether or not our first suggestion is correct, this phenomenon may account for multiple wavelengths in somitogenesis, and may thus encompass somite formation, but also somite polarization (half-wavelength) into anterior and posterior halves, as well as the puzzling observation that expression of her1 in zebrafish is in primordia of alternating somites, i.e. it exhibits a 2-somite wavelength.

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