Physical-chemical mechanisms of pattern formation during gastrulation
Kolomeisky, Anatoly B.
Gastrulation is a fundamental phase during the biological development of most animals when a single layer of identical embryo cells is transformed into a three-layer structure, from which the organs start to develop. Despite a remarkable progress in quantifying the gastrulation processes, molecular mechanisms of these processes remain not well understood. Here we theoretically investigate early spatial patterning in a geometrically confined colony of embryonic stem cells. Using a reaction-diffusion model, a role of Bone-Morphogenetic Protein 4 (BMP4) signaling pathway in gastrulation is specifically analyzed. Our results show that for slow diffusion rates of BMP4 molecules, a new length scale appears, which is independent of the size of the system. This length scale separates the central region of the colony with uniform low concentrations of BMP molecules from the region near the colony edge where the concentration of signaling molecules is elevated. The roles of different components of the signaling pathway are also explained. Theoretical results are consistent with recent in vitro experiments, providing microscopic explanations for some features of early embryonic spatial patterning. Physical-chemical mechanisms of these processes are discussed.