The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 64: 453 - 463 (2020)

Vol 64, Issue 10-11-12

Biological notion of positional information/value in morphogenesis theory

Essay | Published: 14 December 2020

Yue Wang1, Jérémie Kropp1 and Nadya Morozova*,1,2,3

1Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS), Bures-sur-Yvette, 2Institute for Integrative Biology of the Cell (I2BC), CEA, CNRS, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette and 3Komarov Botanical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences (BIN RAS), Saint Petersburg, Russia


The notions of positional information and positional value describe the role of cell position in cell development and pattern formation. Despite their frequent usage in literature, their definitions are blurry, and are interpreted differently by different researchers. Through reflection on previous definitions and usage, and analysis of related experiments, we propose three clear and verifiable criteria for positional information/value. Then we reviewed literature on molecular mechanisms of cell development and pattern formation, to search for a possible molecular basis of positional information/value, including those used in theoretical models. We conclude that although morphogen gradients and cell-to-cell contacts are involved in the pattern formation process, complete molecular explanations of positional information/value are still far from reality.


positional information, positional value, pattern formation, morphogen, theoretical model

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