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Development. 2018 May 16. pii: dev.161257. doi: 10.1242/dev.161257. [Epub ahead of print]

Size-reduced embryos reveal a gradient scaling based mechanism for zebrafish somite formation.

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Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Gene Regulation Research, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Nara 630-0101, Japan.
Department of Fisheries, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta 55281, Indonesia.
Image and Data Analysis Core, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Little is known about how the sizes of animal tissues are controlled. A prominent example is somite size which varies widely both within an individual and across species. Despite intense study of the segmentation clock governing the timing of somite generation, how it relates to somite size is poorly understood. Here we examine somite scaling and find that somite size at specification scales with the length of the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) despite considerable variation in PSM length across developmental stages and in surgically size-reduced embryos. Measurement of clock period, axis elongation speed, and clock gene expression patterns demonstrate that existing models fail to explain scaling. We posit a "clock and scaled gradient" model, in which somite boundaries are set by a dynamically scaling signaling gradient across the PSM. Our model not only explains existing data, but also makes a unique prediction that we experimentally confirm-the formation of periodic "echoes" in somite size following perturbation of the size of one somite. Our findings demonstrate that gradient scaling plays a central role both in progression and size control of somitogenesis.


Fgf gradient; Mathematical modeling; PSM; Quantitative imaging; Scaling; Segmentation clock; Somite


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