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Volume 10, Pages 2207-2214
Mini-Review Article

Time-Space Translation: A Developmental Principle

1Sylvius Laboratory, Leiden, The Netherlands
2Institute of Biochemistry, University of Ulm, Germany

Received 8 August 2010; Revised 13 October 2010; Accepted 13 October 2010

Academic Editor: David L. Tannahill

Copyright © 2010 A. J. Durston et al.


We review a recently discovered developmental mechanism. Anterior-posterior positional information for the vertebrate trunk is generated by sequential interactions between a timer in the early nonorganizer mesoderm (NOM) and the Spemann organizer (SO). The timer is characterized by temporally collinear activation of a series of Hox genes in the early ventral and lateral mesoderm (i.e., the NOM) of the Xenopus gastrula. This early Hox gene expression is transient, unless it is stabilized by signals from the SO. The NOM and the SO undergo timed interactions due to morphogenetic movements during gastrulation, which lead to the formation of an anterior-posterior axial pattern and stable Hox gene expression. When separated from each other, neither the NOM nor the SO is able to induce anterior-posterior pattern formation of the trunk. We present a model describing that the NOM acquires transiently stable hox codes and spatial collinearity, and that morphogenetic movements then continually bring new cells from the NOM within the range of SO signals that cause transfer of the mesodermal pattern to a stable pattern in neurectoderm and, thereby, create patterned axial structures. In doing so, the age of the NOM, but not the age of the SO, defines positional values along the anterior-posterior axis. We postulate that the temporal information from the NOM is linked to mesodermal Hox expression. The role of the SO for trunk patterning turns out to be the induction of neural tissue as prerequisite for neural hox patterning. Apparently, development of a stable anterior-posterior pattern requires neural hox patterning. We believe that this mechanism represents a developmental principle.