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Bioessays. 2000 Aug;22(8):753-60.

Pattern formation by local self-activation and lateral inhibition.

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Max-Planck Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Tubingen, Germany.


In 1972, we proposed a theory of biological pattern formation in which concentration maxima of pattern forming substances are generated through local self-enhancement in conjunction with long range inhibition. Since then, much evidence in various developmental systems has confirmed the importance of autocatalytic feedback loops combined with inhibitory interaction. Examples are found in the formation of embryonal organizing regions, in segmentation, in the polarization of individual cells, and in gene activation. By computer simulations, we have shown that the theory accounts for much of the regulatory phenomena observed, including signalling to regenerate removed parts. These self-regulatory features contribute to making development robust and error-tolerant. Furthermore, the resulting pattern is, to a large extent, independent of the details provided by initial conditions and inducing signals.

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