Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Timing is not only ticking

15.07.2014

Max Planck researchers discover that a Doppler effect influences segmentation

Many animals exhibit segmental patterns that manifest themselves during development. One classical example is the sequential and rhythmic formation the segmental precursors of the backbone, a process that has been linked to the ticking of an oscillator in the embryo – the “segmentation clock”.


Waves of oscillating gene expression are visible in pseudo-colour sweeping from the posterior to the anterior through the unsegmented tissue. The anterior end of this unsegmented tissue moves steadily into these on-coming waves, creating a Doppler effect that contributes to the rhythm of segmentation.

© Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics

Until now, this patterning process was thought to be determined simply by the time scale of genetic oscillations that periodically trigger new segment formation. However, Max Planck researchers suggest a more nuanced control over the timing of segmentation.

Their findings show that the rhythm of segmentation is influenced by a Doppler effect that arises from gene expression waves occurring in a shortening embryonic tissue. They paint a potentially revolutionary picture of the process of developmental segmentation, one controlled by not only the time scale of genetic oscillations, but also by changes in oscillation profile and tissue shortening.

What do you, I and many other animals have in common? Perhaps it isn’t the first thing you think of, but we, like them, have a distinctly segmented body axis. During our development, spatial and temporal cues are integrated to form a specific number of embryonic segments that later on give rise to corresponding ribs and vertebrae. The rhythm of this patterning process is crucial to determine the correct number and size of segments, but how is its timing actually controlled?

In vertebrates, the onset and arrest gene expression waves is thought to be controlled by a complex genetic network – the so-called “segmentation clock”. Each arrested waves triggers the formation of a new segment. The underling mechanism was thought to operate like a conventional clock that ticks with a precise period: one tick of the clock equals one new segment.

To examine this hypothesis a team of biologists and physicists guided by Andy Oates and Frank Jülicher from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden developed a novel transgenic zebrafish line (named Looping) and a multidimensional time-lapse microscope that enabled them to visualise and quantify gene expression waves and segment formation at the same time.

To their surprise they found that the onset and arrest of waves happened with a different frequency, indicating that the timing of segmentation cannot be explained by a conventional clock alone. The team worked out that this puzzling difference in frequency was caused by a scenario that is similar to the classic Doppler effect.

Travelling tissue and oscillating genes

Imagine an ambulance driving down the street. Did you ever notice how the pitch of the siren changes as it drives past? This is the Doppler effect, and is caused by changes in the frequency of the sound waves as the source comes towards an observer (you) and then drives away. The same thing would happen if you rapidly approached and then passed a stationary sound source.

It turns out that sound waves are not entirely unlike the gene expression waves in zebrafish. These gene expression waves travel from the posterior towards the anterior of the animal (from the tip of the tail towards the head). As they do, the embryo develops, changing its shape, and the tissue in which the waves travel shortens. This leads to a relative motion of the anterior end of the tissue where the new segments form (the observer) towards the posterior (the source).

This motion of the observer into travelling gene expression waves leads to a Doppler effect in the developing zebrafish embryo. Moreover, this Doppler effect is modulated by a more subtle effect that is caused by a continuously changing wave profile. This Dynamic Wavelength effect and the Doppler effect have an opposing influence on the timing of segmentation, but the effect of the Doppler is stronger. Since this timing, as mentioned above, determines the number and size of the body segments, it affects the number and size of the developing ribs and vertebrae.

The team’s findings could potentially revolutionise our understanding of timing during development. The biological mechanism behind the change in the wave profile is still unclear, but it highlights the complex nature of development and the need to go beyond steady state and scaling descriptions of embryonic development.

Contact 

Florian Frisch

Public Information Officer

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden

Phone: +49351 210 2840

 

Original publication

 
Daniele Soroldoni, David J. Jörg, Luis G. Morelli, David L. Richmond, Johannes Schindelin, Frank Jülicher, Andrew C. Oates
A Doppler effect in embryonic pattern formation.
Science, 11 July 2014

Florian Frisch | Max-Planck-Institute
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/8300471/Doppler-effect-segmentation-clock

Further reports about: Biology Doppler Genetics Molecular clock effect segmentation waves zebrafish

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility
14.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Guardians of the Gate
14.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>