PerspectiveDevelopmental Biology

Managing patterns and proportions over time

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Science  26 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6204, pp. 1565-1566
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260025

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During vertebrate embryogenesis, new tissues are forged through the development of specific cell types in particular patterns. This patterning happens in the context of tissue growth, but how are these two phenomena coordinated? How does a tissue that changes size over time maintain the proportions of its different domains? Does patterning scale with tissue size? On page 1577 of this issue, Kicheva et al. (1) answer these long-standing questions. Their analysis of mouse and chick embryos of different sizes reveals that patterning proportions of different progenitor domains in the vertebrate neural tube—the rudiment of the spinal cord—do not scale with growing size. Instead, the authors propose a two-phase process for how tissue regions grow in register to one another, despite different growth rates.