Systems for intricate patterning of the vertebrate anatomy

Kevin J Painter, Mariya Ptashnyk, Denis Headon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Periodic patterns form intricate arrays in the vertebrate anatomy, notably the hair and feather follicles of the skin, but also internally the villi of the gut and the many branches of the lung, kidney, mammary and salivary glands. These tissues are composite structures, being composed of adjoined epithelium and mesenchyme, and the patterns that arise within them require interaction between these two tissue layers. In embryonic development, cells change both their distribution and state in a periodic manner, defining the size and relative positions of these specialized structures. Their placement is determined by simple spacing mechanisms, with substantial evidence pointing to a variety of local enhancement/lateral inhibition systems underlying the breaking of symmetry. The nature of the cellular processes involved, however, has been less clear. While much attention has focused on intercellular soluble signals, such as protein growth factors, experimental evidence has grown for contributions of cell movement or mechanical forces to symmetry breaking. In the mesenchyme, unlike the epithelium, cells may move freely and can self-organize into aggregates by chemotaxis, or through generation and response to mechanical strain on their surrounding matrix. Different modes of self-organization may coexist, either coordinated into a single system or with hierarchical relationships. Consideration of a broad range of distinct biological processes is required to advance understanding of biological pattern formation. This article is part of the theme issue 'Recent progress and open frontiers in Turing's theory of morphogenesis'.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200270
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2213
Early online date27 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Dec 2021


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