Recent Advances in Understanding Vertebrate Segmentation


Segmentation is the partitioning of the body axis into a series of repeating units or segments. This widespread body plan is found in annelids, arthropods, and chordates, showing it to be a successful developmental strategy for growing and generating diverse morphology and anatomy. Segmentation has been extensively studied over the years. Forty years ago, Cooke and Zeeman published the Clock and Wavefront model, creating a theoretical framework of how developing cells could acquire and keep temporal and spatial information in order to generate a segmented pattern. Twenty years later, in 1997, Palmeirim and co-workers found the first clock gene whose oscillatory expression pattern fitted within Cooke and Zeeman’s model. Currently, in 2017, new experimental techniques, such as new ex vivo experimental models, real-time imaging of gene expression, live single cell tracking, and simplified transgenics approaches, are revealing some of the fine details of the molecular processes underlying the inner workings of the segmentation mechanisms, bringing new insights into this fundamental process. Here we review and discuss new emerging views that further our understanding of the vertebrate segmentation clock, with a particular emphasis on recent publications that challenge and/or complement the currently accepted Clock and Wavefront model.

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