Dr. Marie Kmita and her research team at the IRCM contributed to a multidisciplinary research project that identified the mechanism responsible for generating our fingers and toes, and revealed the importance of gene regulation in the transition of fins to limbs during evolution. Their scientific breakthrough is published today in the prestigious scientific journal Science.
By combining genetic studies with mathematical modeling, the scientists provided experimental evidence supporting a theoretical model for pattern formation known as the Turing mechanism. In 1952, mathematician Alan Turing proposed mathematical equations for pattern formation, which describes how two uniformly-distributed substances, an activator and a repressor, trigger the formation of complex shapes and structures from initially-equivalent cells.
"The Turing model for pattern formation has long remained under debate, mostly due to the lack of experimental data supporting it," explains Dr. Rushikesh Sheth, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Kmita's laboratory and co-first author of the study. "By studying the role of Hox genes during limb development, we were able to show, for the first time, that the patterning process that generates our fingers and toes relies on a Turing-like mechanism."
In humans, as in other mammals, the embryo's development is controlled, in part, by "architect" genes known as Hox genes. These genes are essential to the proper positioning of the body's architecture, and define the nature and function of cells that form organs and skeletal elements.
"Our genetic study suggested that Hox genes act as modulators of a Turing-like mechanism, which was further supported by mathematical tests performed by our collaborators, Dr. James Sharpe and his team," adds Dr. Marie Kmita, Director of the Genetics and Development research unit at the IRCM. "Moreover, we showed that drastically reducing the dose of Hox genes in mice transforms fingers into structures reminiscent of the extremities of fish fins. These findings further support the key role of Hox genes in the transition of fins to limbs during evolution, one of the most important anatomical innovations associated with the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life."
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal: http://www.ircm.qc.ca
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.