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Dev Growth Differ September 1, 2017; 59 (7): 580-592.
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Generation of animal form by the Chordin/Tolloid/BMP gradient: 100 years after D''Arcy Thompson.

The classic book "On Growth and Form" by naturalist D''Arcy Thompson was published 100 years ago. To celebrate this landmark, we present experiments in the Xenopus embryo that provide a framework for understanding how simple, quantitative transformations of a morphogen gradient might have affected evolution and morphological diversity of organisms. D''Arcy Thompson proposed that different morphologies might be generated by modifying physical parameters in an underlying system of Cartesian coordinates that pre-existed in Nature and arose during evolutionary history. Chordin is a BMP antagonist secreted by the Spemann organizer located on the dorsal side of the gastrula. Chordin generates a morphogen gradient as first proposed by mathematician Alan Turing. The rate-limiting step of this dorsal-ventral (D-V) morphogen is the degradation of Chordin by the Tolloid metalloproteinase in the ventral side. Chordin is expressed at gastrula on the dorsal side where BMP signaling is low, while at the opposite side peak levels of BMP signaling are reached. In fishes, amphibians, reptiles and birds, high BMP signaling in the ventral region induces transcription of a secreted inhibitor of Tolloid called Sizzled. By depleting Sizzled exclusively in the ventral half of the embryo we were able to expand the ventro-posterior region in an otherwise normal embryo. Conversely, ventral depletion of Tolloid, which stabilizes Chordin, decreased ventral and tail structures, phenocopying the tolloid zebrafish mutation. We explain how historical constraints recorded in the language of DNA become subject to the universal laws of physics when an ancestral reaction-diffusion morphogen gradient dictates form.

PubMed ID: 28815565
Article link: Dev Growth Differ

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: aaas bmp1 chrd.1 dspp mafb szl tll1 tll2
Morpholinos: bmp1 MO1 tll1 MO1 tll2 MO1

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