A Segmentation Clock with Two-Segment Periodicity in Insects

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Science  08 Mar 2012:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218256


Vertebrate segmentation relies on a mechanism characterized by oscillating gene expression. Whether this mechanism is used by other segmented animals has been controversial. Rigorous proof of cyclic expression during arthropod segmentation has been lacking. We find that the segmentation gene odd-skipped (Tc-odd) oscillates with a two-segment periodicity in the beetle Tribolium castaneum. By bisecting embryos and culturing the two halves over different time intervals, we demonstrate that Tc-odd cycles with a period of about 95 min. Using live imaging and cell tracking in GFP-expressing embryos, we can exclude that cell movements explain this dynamic expression. Our results show that molecular oscillators represent a common feature of segmentation in divergent animals and help reconcile the contrasting paradigms of insect and vertebrate segmentation.