Communications Biology volume 5, Article number: 113 (2022

Weiting Zhang, Pierluigi Scerbo, Marine Delagrange, Virginie Candat, Vanessa Mayr, Sophie Vriz, Martin Distel, Bertrand Ducos & David Bensimon

Fig. 4: Somitogenesis upon induction of exogenous Fgf8.


Somitogenesis, the segmentation of the antero-posterior axis in vertebrates, is thought to result from the interactions between a genetic oscillator and a posterior-moving determination wavefront. The segment (somite) size is set by the product of the oscillator period and the velocity of the determination wavefront. Surprisingly, while the segmentation period can vary by a factor three between 20 °C and 32 °C, the somite size is constant. How this temperature independence is achieved is a mystery that we address in this study. Using RT-qPCR we show that the endogenous fgf8 mRNA concentration decreases during somitogenesis and correlates with the exponent of the shrinking pre-somitic mesoderm (PSM) size. As the temperature decreases, the dynamics of fgf8 and many other gene transcripts, as well as the segmentation frequency and the PSM shortening and tail growth rates slows down as T–Tc (with Tc = 14.4 °C). This behavior characteristic of a system near a critical point may account for the temperature independence of somitogenesis in zebrafish.

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