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Bioessays October 1, 2003; 25 (10): 1002-10.

Motor protein control of ion flux is an early step in embryonic left-right asymmetry.

The invariant left-right asymmetry of animal body plans raises fascinating questions in cell, developmental, evolutionary, and neuro-biology. While intermediate mechanisms (e.g., asymmetric gene expression) have been well-characterized, very early steps remain elusive. Recent studies suggested a candidate for the origins of asymmetry: rotary movement of extracellular morphogens by cilia during gastrulation. This model is intellectually satisfying, because it bootstraps asymmetry from the intrinsic biochemical chirality of cilia. However, conceptual and practical problems remain with this hypothesis, and the genetic data is consistent with a different mechanism. Based on wide-ranging data on ion fluxes and motor protein action in a number of species, a model is proposed whereby laterality is generated much earlier, by asymmetric transport of ions, which results in pH/voltage gradients across the midline. These asymmetries are in turn generated by a new candidate for "step 1": asymmetric localization of electrogenic proteins by cytoplasmic motors.

PubMed ID: 14505367
Article link: Bioessays

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