The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 45: 177 - 188 (2001)

Vol 45, Issue 1

Special Issue: The Spemann-Mangold Organizer

Organizer and axes formation as a self-organizing process

Published: 1 February 2001

H Meinhardt

Max-Planck-Institut for Entwicklungsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.


It is a widely held view that axis formation is based essentially on pre-localized determinants. However, the robustness of early development, the pattern regulation observed after experimental interferences and the existence of systems that don't require maternal determinants suggest that self-regulating pattern forming systems are also involved. A model is proposed that allows axes formation by a chain of reactions based on local self-enhancement and long-range inhibition. Their appropriate linkage ensures that the intermediary patterns emerge in the correct sequence and have the correct spatial relation to each other. Specifically, the model comprises the following events: the generation of a pole by a pattern-forming process, the formation of a second organizer eccentric to the pole (e.g. the Nieuwkoop center), the ecto-meso-endo subdivision, the generation of the Spemann-Mangold organizer with its anterior-posterior subdivision under the influence of the Nieuwkoop center, the conversion of the Spemann-Mangold organizer (a hot spot) into the notochord (a hot stripe), and the marking of the left side of the organism by a patterning reaction influenced by the midline. The pattern forming reactions do not depend on but can make use of maternally pre-localized determinants or asymmetries. Comparison with known genes and molecules reveals that many of the expected ingredients are present. Computer simulations show that the model accounts for many regulatory features reported in the literature. The computer simulations are available in an animated form at.

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