Ca2+ signaling during vertebrate somitogenesis

Authors: Sarah E Webb, Andrew L Miller


A variety of Ca2+ signals, in the form of intercellular pulses and waves, have been reported to be associated with the various sequential stages of somitogenesis: from convergent extension and the formation of the paraxial mesoderm; during the patterning of the paraxial mesoderm to establish segmental units; throughout the formation of the morphological boundaries that delineate the segmental units, and finally from within the maturing somites as they undergo subsequent development and differentiation. Due to both the technical challenges presented in imaging intact, developing embryos, and the subtle nature of the Ca2+ transients generated, they have proved to be difficult to visualize. However, a combination of cultured cell preparations and improvements in explant and whole embryo imaging techniques has begun to reveal a new and exciting class of developmental Ca2+ signals. In this chapter, we review the small, but expanding, number of reports in the literature and attempt to identify common characteristics of the somitogenic Ca2+ transients, such as their mode of generation, as well as their spatial and temporal features. This may help to elucidate the significance and function of these intriguing Ca2+ transients and thus integrate them into the complex signaling networks that orchestrate early developmental events.

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