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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2009 Aug;19(4):315-22. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 Jul 10.

Temporal dynamics of patterning by morphogen gradients.

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Developmental Neurobiology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA, UK.


Morphogens act as graded positional cues to control cell fate specification in many developing tissues. This concept, in which a signaling gradient regulates differential gene expression in a concentration-dependent manner, has received considerable experimental support. Nevertheless, several recent studies have challenged the straightforward model of morphogen activity. In particular, the observation that pattern formation is a dynamic process has raised questions about the influence of time on morphogen activity. Here we propose that the spatiotemporal dynamics of the cellular response to a morphogen gradient depend on a combination of temporal alterations to the morphogen gradient itself, the dynamics of its signal transduction and downstream interactions between target genes.

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