Cover image for Vol. 38 Issue 7

Edited By: Andrew Moore

Online ISSN: 1521-1878



An intertwining of cell–cell communication and intracellular signalling cascades assures that developmental steps occur in the right time, at the right place. Below is a collection of recent articles providing novel insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development of organs and organisms: from the morphogenesis and growth of flies, fish, mammals, and seeds, through the hitherto underestimated role of commensal bacteria in development, to neural network wiring during embryogenesis and adulthood. We wish you pleasant reading!

For primary literature relevant to the articles below, see the Encyclopedia of Life SciencesELS_Logo entries under Developmental Biology.

The quest for restoring hearing: Understanding ear development more completely
Israt Jahan, Ning Pan, Karen L. Elliott and Bernd Fritzsch, BioEssays, Volume 37, Issue 9, September 2015, pages 1016-1027.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201500044

Atoh1, cochlea, development, diffusible factors, expression regulation, lateral inhibition, organ of Corti, patterning

The organ of Corti develops from a regular mosaic of hair cells surrounded by supporting cells (E14.5). Transforming this regular arrangement requires cellular reshuffling. Outer pillar cells (OP) form a row next to inner pillar cells (IP). Outer hair cells (OHC) alternate with Deiters’ cells (D) and inner hair cells (IHC) alter their position relative to inner phalangeal cell (IPC).

Cell death and morphogenesis during early mouse development: Are they interconnected?
Ivan Bedzhov and Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, BioEssays, Volume 37, Issue 4, April 2015, pages 372-378.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400147

apoptosis, blastocyst, egg cylinder, epiblast, implantation, morphogenesis

Programmed cell death is tightly regulated during early embryogenesis to ensure developmental success. Apoptosis was considered as the main morphogenic force reshaping the epiblast to establish the proamniotic cavity. Instead, we found previously unknown morphogenic event reorganizing the epiblast into a radially polarized rosette-like structure, where central lumen emerges.

The promise of perfect adult tissue repair and regeneration in mammals: Learning from regenerative amphibians and fish
James Godwin, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 9, September 2014, 861-871.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201300144

fibrosis, mammals, regeneration, repair, salamander, scarrin, zebrafish

Looking at natural examples of near-perfect tissue regeneration in highly regenerative animals like amphibians and fish may provide a roadmap for the development of human regenerative therapies. This review discusses several factors that may underlie natural regeneration and how these may be exploited for the improvement of human health.

Chromatin regulators in neurodevelopment and disease: Analysis of fly neural circuits provides insights
Hiroaki Taniguchi and Adrian W. Moore, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 9, September 2014, 872-883.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400087

chromatin, disease model, Drosophila, epigenetics, histone, neurogenesis, neurological disease

Disruptions in histone modifiers and chromatin remodelers cause neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Genetic approaches in Drosophila have revealed roles for these factors in neuronal precursor self-renewal, circuit wiring, developmental signaling, and cognition. They further have illustrated how chromatin regulator activity is delineated by transcription factors and chromatin remodeling complex partners.

Small proteins, big roles: The signaling protein Apela extends the complexity of developmental pathways in the early zebrafish embryo
Michal Reichman-Fried and Erez Raz, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 8, August 2014, 741-745.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400048

Apela, Apelin, Aplnr, cardiogenesis, embryogenesis, gastrulation, GPCR, zebrafish

Mining the zebrafish and human genomes for non-annotated open reading frames, a small signaling molecule was identified and its function analyzed, revealing a role in the regulation of cell motility and cell differentiation. This small conserved protein named Apela interacts with the G-protein-coupled receptor for the Apelin protein.

Fez family transcription factors: Controlling neurogenesis and cell fate in the developing mammalian nervous system
Matthew J. Eckler and Bin Chen, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 8, August 2014, 788-797.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400039

cell fate, cerebral cortex, Fezf1, Fezf2, gene expression, neurogenesis, olfactory system

The zinc-finger transcription factors Fezf1 and Fezf2 are evolutionarily conserved from flies to humans. Within the developing mammalian nervous system they have unique and redundant functions during generation of the forebrain and olfactory system. These include coordination of neurogenic programs and the control of neuronal fate specification.

Unravelling the developmental regulatory networks in early animals: Workshop at the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, 23rd–26th September 2013
Fabian Rentzsch and Maja Adamska, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 4, April 2014, 427-430.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400012

Meeting report, development, early animals

Development, life cycle evolution and immunity were among the topics discussed at a recent meeting in Tutzing dedicated to the biology of the ‘basal’ metazoan taxa Porifera, Ctenophora, Placozoa and Cnidaria.

Scaling of dorsal-ventral patterning in the Xenopus laevis embryo
Danny Ben-Zvi, Abraham Fainsod, Ben-Zion Shilo and Naama Barkai, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 2, February 2014, 151-156.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201300136

BMP, development, mathematical modeling, morphogen gradient, patterning, scaling, Xenopus

Inomata and colleagues proposed an elegant model explaining how sizzled scales patterning in Xenopus laevis embryo with embryo size. We review this work in context of the expansion-repression framework, and suggest both sizzled and Admp function as expanders of the bone morphogenic protein (BMP) activation gradient, to robustly scale its pattern with size.

Homosexuality via canalized sexual development: A testing protocol for a new epigenetic model
William R. Rice, Urban Friberg and Sergey Gavrilets, BioEssays, Volume 35, Issue 9, September 2013, 764-770.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201300033

epigenetics, gonad-trait discordance, homosexuality

We recently advanced a new biological model of homosexuality that is based on transgenerational inheritance of sex-specific epigenetic marks from a parent to an offspring of opposite sex. Here, we describe a general framework to test the model using human stem cells from adult hetero- and homosexual individuals.

Both cell-autonomous mechanisms and hormones contribute to sexual development in vertebrates and insects
Ashley Bear and Antónia Monteiro, BioEssays, Volume 35, Issue 8, August 2013, 725-732.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201300009

cell-autonomous, gonads, insects, sexual development, sexual dimorphism, sex hormones, vertebrates

Recent research has shown that the development of male and female traits in insects, birds, and mammals depends on both hormones and on the cell-autonomous expression of the sex determination pathway in somatic cells. This new research challenges traditional views of sexual development in birds, mammals, and insects.

Protein partners of KCTD proteins provide insights about their functional roles in cell differentiation and vertebrate development
Mikhail Skoblov, Andrey Marakhonov, Ekaterina Marakasova, Anna Guskova, Vikas Chandhoke, Aybike Birerdinc and Ancha Baranova, BioEssays, Volume 35, Issue 7, July 2013, 586-596.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201300002

AP-2alpha, KCTD15, pentapeptide repeat, protein-protein interactions, T1 domain

The functions of KCTD family proteins are proposed. KCTD20 is an AKT-mTOR-p70S6k signaling component, KCTD5 is important for cytokinesis, KCTD10 regulates the RhoA/RhoB, and KCTD15 suppresses early adipogenesis. TNFAIP1-like proteins may participate in translesional synthesis. KCTD12 suppresses gastrointestinal stromal tumors by interfering with GABAb. The DNA-like pentapeptide repeat domain of KCTD9 is important.

Instructive reconstruction: A new role for apoptosis in pattern formation
David J. Duffy, BioEssays, Volume 34, Issue 7, July 2012, 561-564.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201200018

Cnidaria, development, heat shock protein, metamorphosis, regenration, Wnt

Apoptosis is not only involved in patterning by removal of tissue (destructive apoptotic patterning), but it can also function in signalling the site of de novo tissue generation via morphogenic signals (instructive apoptotic patterning).

Slicing embryos gently with laser light sheets
Jan Huisken, BioEssays, Volume 34, Issue 5, May 2012, pages 406-411.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100120

cell biology, developmental biology, light sheet microscopy, selective plane illumination microscopy (SPIM), zebrafish

Light sheet microscopy is ideally suited to in vivo imaging over long periods of time as it not only offers low photo-toxicity but also high image acquisition rates. One example of this technique is selective plane illumination microscopy (SPIM) which, for example, even allows imaging of entire embryos with isotropic resolution.

Molecular bioelectricity in developmental biology: New tools and recent discoveries
Michael Levin, BioEssays, Volume 34, Issue 3, March 2012, pages 205-217.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100136

bioeletricity, ion channels, membrane voltage, prepattern

Control of cell behavior and pattern formation by transmembrane potential gradients.

Relaxation-expansion model for self-driven retinal morphogenesis
Mototsugu Eiraku, Taiji Adachi and Yoshiki Sasai, BioEssays, Volume 34, Issue 1, January 2012, pages 17-25.
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100070

ES cells, internal force, optic cup, retina, self-organization

A hypothesis from the perspective of biosystems dynamics at the multi-cellular level.