Continuum theory of gene expression waves during vertebrate segmentation

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The segmentation of the vertebrate body plan during embryonic development is a rhythmic and sequential process governed by genetic oscillations. These genetic oscillations give rise to traveling waves of gene expression in the segmenting tissue. Here we present a minimal continuum theory of vertebrate segmentation that captures the key principles governing the dynamic patterns of gene expression including the effects of shortening of the oscillating tissue. We show that our theory can quantitatively account for the key features of segmentation observed in zebrafish, in particular the shape of the wave patterns, the period of segmentation and the segment length as a function of time.

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