Barone, Vanessa

Cell adhesion and cell fate: An effective feedback loop during zebrafish gastrulation - IST Austria 2017

Thesis

Abstract Acknowledgments List of Figures List of Symbols/Abbreviations 1 Introduction 2 Materials and methods 3 Results 4 Discussion References A. Appendix 1

Cell-cell contact formation constitutes the first step in the emergence of multicellularity in evolution, thereby allowing the differentiation of specialized cell types. In metazoan development, cell-cell contact formation is thought to influence cell fate specification, and cell fate specification has been implicated in cell-cell contact formation. However, remarkably little is yet known about whether and how the interaction and feedback between cell-cell contact formation and cell fate specification affect development. Here we identify a positive feedback loop between cell-cell contact duration, morphogen signaling and mesendoderm cell fate specification during zebrafish gastrulation. We show that long lasting cell-cell contacts enhance the competence of prechordal plate (ppl) progenitor cells to respond to Nodal signaling, required for proper ppl cell fate specification. We further show that Nodal signalling romotes ppl cell-cell contact duration, thereby generating an effective positive feedback loop between ppl cell-cell contact duration and cell fate specification. Finally, by using a combination of theoretical modeling and experimentation, we show that this feedback loop determines whether anterior axial mesendoderm cells become ppl progenitors or, instead, turn into endoderm progenitors. Our findings reveal that the gene regulatory networks leading to cell fate diversification within the developing embryo are controlled by the interdependent activities of cell-cell signaling and contact formation.

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