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Many unexpected discoveries in developmental biology have depended on advancement of imaging technologies to visualize developmental processes as they unfold across multiple spatial and temporal scales. This essay surveys the recent advances in imaging, highlighting emerging capabilities with an eye toward those poised to have the greatest impact on developmental biology.
Much of developmental biology in the past decades has been driven by forward genetic studies in a few model organisms. We review recent work with relatives of these species, motivated by a desire to understand the evolutionary and ecological context for morphological innovation. Unfortunately, despite a number of shining examples, progress in nonmodel systems has often been slow. The current revolution in DNA sequencing has, however, enormous potential in extending the reach of genetics. We discuss how deve...
Developmental biologists understand how different cells contribute to organ function and how cellular components work together to produce a phenotype. These insights need to be more widely applied to systems biology. Another challenge is to incorporate real-time imaging and develop computational approaches to model biological phenomena in four dimensions.
DOR, a nuclear receptor co-activator conserved from flies to humans, provides a molecular connection between ecdysone and insulin signaling, two important pathways controlling developmental timing and growth, respectively.
Research on developmental pathways in model organisms provides key information on how to isolate, maintain, and differentiate human pluripotent stem cells. However, details of developmental pathways differ even across mammalian species. Full realization of the potential of stem cells will require more direct studies of human or primate developmental biology.
Outgrowth of the embryonic limb in vertebrates is driven by a proximodistal gradient of cell movement, with WNT and FGF activities controlling direction and velocity, respectively. A similar gradient, though without a directional bias, drives caudal body axis extension.
The acquisition of a lumen is an essential step in vascular morphogenesis. In this issue of Developmental Cell, Xu et al. (2011) show that the small GTPase Rasip is a critical regulator of cytoskeleton dynamics and cell adhesion, which together drive the emergence of vascular lumens.
Systems biology seeks not only to discover the machinery of life but to understand how such machinery is used for control, i.e., for regulation that achieves or maintains a desired, useful end. This sort of goal-directed, engineering-centered approach also has deep historical roots in developmental biology. Not surprisingly, developmental biology is currently enjoying an influx of ideas and methods from systems biology. This Review highlights current efforts to elucidate design principles underlying the eng...
For a process intimately connected to an immense range of physiological processes, the molecular understanding of macroautophagy remains far from complete. Recent large-scale studies, including those of Behrends et al. in Nature and Lipinski et al. in Developmental Cell, are now providing new insight into the machinery of autophagy regulation.
Spindle checkpoint silencing is crucial for cell-cycle progression, but mechanisms underlying this process remain mysterious. Two papers, one in this issue of Developmental Cell (Meadows et al., 2011) and one in Current Biology (Rosenberg et al., 2011), begin to show how phosphatase PP1-gamma connects chromosome-microtubule attachment with anaphase entry.
Several good friends of mine study disease resistance in plants, and I have loosely followed the enormous advances made in this area. Still, for a long time, I could not get very excited about plant-pathogen interactions. This paper from the Carrington group finally made me realize that even a dyed-in-the-wool developmental biologist like myself must pay closer attention to the field. I was at first surprised to see a pathogen paper published in Developmental Cell, even though I remembered that plant viruse...
Developmental biology has long benefited from studies of classic model organisms. Recently, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic stem cells and human induced pluripotent stem cells, have emerged as a new model system that offers unique advantages for developmental studies. Here, we discuss how studies of hPSCs can complement classic approaches using model organisms, and how hPSCs can be used to recapitulate aspects of human embryonic development 'in a dish'. We also summarize some...
The seventeenth EMBO Conference on the Molecular and Developmental Biology of Drosophila took place in Kolymbari, Crete, between 20 and 26 June 2010. The conference covered a broad range of topics and much progress was made by combining two or more fields of study. Such combinations included quantitative approaches to cell and developmental biology, dissecting interrelations of physiology and development and integrated genomic analysis.
During cell migration, chemoattractant-induced signaling pathways determine the direction of movement by controlling the spatiotemporal dynamics of cytoskeletal components. In this issue of Developmental Cell, Liu et al. report that the target of rapamycin complex 2 (TORC2) controls cell polarity and chemotaxis through regulation of both F-actin and myosin II in migrating neutrophils.
Extracellular signaling molecules have crucial roles in development and homeostasis, and their incorrect deployment can lead to developmental defects and disease states. Signaling molecules are released from sending cells, travel to target cells, and act over length scales of several orders of magnitude, from morphogen-mediated patterning of small developmental fields to hormonal signaling throughout the organism. We discuss how signals are modified and assembled for transport, which routes they take to rea...
The canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway is an essential component of multiple developmental processes. To investigate the role of this pathway in the ectoderm during facial morphogenesis, we generated conditional β-catenin mouse mutants using a novel ectoderm-specific Cre recombinase transgenic line. Our results demonstrate that ablating or stabilizing β-catenin in the embryonic ectoderm causes dramatic changes in facial morphology. There are accompanying alterations in the expression of Fgf8 and Shh, key mo...
Setting up a new lab is an exciting but challenging prospect. We discuss our experiences in finding a path to tackle some of the key current questions in cell biology and the hurdles that we have encountered along the way.