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Development. 2015 Apr 1;142(7):1203-11. doi: 10.1242/dev.114991.

Positional information and reaction-diffusion: two big ideas in developmental biology combine.

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Department of Craniofacial Development & Stem Cell Biology, King's College London, London SE1 9RT, UK
EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Research Unit, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), UPF, 08003 Barcelona, Spain Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats (ICREA), Passeig Lluis Companys 23, 08010 Barcelona, Spain


One of the most fundamental questions in biology is that of biological pattern: how do the structures and shapes of organisms arise? Undoubtedly, the two most influential ideas in this area are those of Alan Turing's 'reaction-diffusion' and Lewis Wolpert's 'positional information'. Much has been written about these two concepts but some confusion still remains, in particular about the relationship between them. Here, we address this relationship and propose a scheme of three distinct ways in which these two ideas work together to shape biological form.


Biological pattern; Developmental biology; History of ideas; Reaction-diffusion

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