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Scale models
Date:8/22/2011

Weizmann Institute scientists have added a significant piece to the puzzle of scaling how patterns stay in sync with size as an embryo or organism grows and develops. In a new study appearing in Current Biology, Institute scientists Profs. Naama Barkai and Ben-Zion Shilo and research student Danny Ben-Zvi of the Molecular Genetics Department have shown how scaling works in developing fruit fly wings in which the vein structure stays perfectly proportioned and their findings should be applicable to many different examples of development, including human embryonic development.

The scientists knew that patterning relies on morphogens substances that are secreted by a small number of cells in the center of the developing embryo, and from there, diffuse outward. As morphogens disperse, the levels drop off in the cells further from the center, and thus the concentration relays a signal to the developing cells about their place and function in the growing organism. But such a morphogen diffuses from the center at the same rate in a small organism as in a larger one, and thus would not effect scaling on its own.

Several years ago, the researchers found a molecule in frog embryos that is synthesized at the edges and diffuses inward. This second molecule also functions as a morphogen, and it is the redistribution of this molecule that finally determines the morphogen signal each developing cell receives, in a way that takes embryo size into consideration.

Next, Barkai and Ben-Zvi created a theoretical model, called an expansion-repression model, in which an expander molecule on the growing edge aids in the distribution of the central morphogen, which eventually represses the synthesis of the expander molecule at the edge. The model suggests just how this interplay between expansion created at the edge and repression moving from the center results in a pattern built to scale.

Ben-Zvi, Barkai and Shilo have now brought the theoret
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Contact: Batya Greenman
news@weizmann.ac.il
972-893-43856
Weizmann Institute of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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