PerspectiveDevelopmental Biology

Self-Organizing Somites

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Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 736-737
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250245

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During vertebrate embryogenesis, the body plan is established through the organization of blocks of tissue (somites) that form along either side of the neural tube, the precursor to the adult spinal cord (see the figure). How a regularly arranged pattern of somites arises from the patternless presomitic mesoderm has not been clear, but the “clock and wavefront” model of oscillating gene expression (the clock) and a traveling wave of signals to stop the oscillation, put forth in 1976 (1), has been the most widely accepted theory. On page 791 of this issue, Dias et al. (2) try to overturn this model by showing that somites can form without either oscillations or the wave.