HOME
        TheInfoList






Developmental biology is the study of the process by which animals and plants grow and develop. Developmental biology also encompasses the biology of regeneration, asexual reproduction, metamorphosis, and the growth and differentiation of stem cells in the adult organism.

Perspectives

The main processes involved in the embryonic development of animals are: tissue patterning (via regional specification and patterned cell differentiation); tissue growth; and tissue morphogenesis.

  • Regional specification refers to the processes that create spatial pattern in a ball or sheet of initially similar cells. This generally involves the action of cytoplasmic determinants, located within parts of the fertilized egg, and of inductive signals emitted from signaling centers in the embryo. The early stages of regional specification do not generate functional differentiated cells, but cell populations committed to develop to a specific region or part of the organism. These are defined by the expression of specific combinations of transcription factors.
  • Cell differentiation relates specifically to the formation of functional cell types such as nerve, muscle, secretory epithelia etc. Differentiated cells contain large amounts of specific proteins associated with the cell function.
  • Morphogenesis relates to the formation of three-dimensional shape. It mainly involves the orchestrated movements of cell sheets and of individual cells. Morphogenesis is important for creating the three germ layers of the early embryo (ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm) and for building up complex structures during organ development.
  • Tissue growth involves both an overall increase in tissue size, and also the differential growth of parts (allometry) which contributes to morphogenesis. Growth mostly occurs through cell proliferation but also through changes of cell size or the deposition of extracellular materials.

The development of plants involves similar processes to that of animals. However plant cells are mostly immotile so morphogenesis is achieved by differential growth, without cell movements. Also, the inductive signals and the genes involved are different from those that control animal development.

Developmental processesThe main processes involved in the embryonic development of animals are: tissue patterning (via regional specification and patterned cell differentiation); tissue growth; and tissue morphogenesis.

  • Regional specification refers to the processes that create spatial pattern in a ball or sheet of initially similar cells. This generally involves the action of cytoplasmic determinants, located within parts of the fertilized egg, and of inductive signals emitted from signaling centers in the embryo. The early stages of regional specification do not generate functional differentiated cells, but cell populations committed to develop to a specific region or part of the organism. These are defined by the expression of specific combinations of transcription factors.
  • Cell differentiation relates specifically to the formation of functional cell types such as nerve, muscle, secretory epithelia etc. Differentiated cells contain large amounts of specific proteins associated with the cell function.
  • Morphogenesis relates to the formation of three-dimensional shape. It mainly involves the orchestrated movements of cell sheets and of individual cells. Morphogenesis is important for creating the three germ layers of the early embryo (ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm) and for building up complex structures during organ development.
  • Tissue growth involves both an overall increase in tissue size, and also the differential growth of parts (allometry) which contributes to morphogenesis. Growth mostly occurs through cell proliferation but also through changes of cell size or the deposition of extracellular materials.

The development of plants involves similar processes to that of animals. However plant cells are mostly immotile so morphogenesis is achieved by differential growth, without cell movements. Also, the inductive signals and the genes involved are different from those that control animal development.

Developmental processes

Cell differentiation[The development of plants involves similar processes to that of animals. However plant cells are mostly immotile so morphogenesis is achieved by differential growth, without cell movements. Also, the inductive signals and the genes involved are different from those that control animal development.

Developmental processes

Cell differentiation

The Notch-delta system in neurogenesis.(Slack Essential Dev Biol Fig 14.12a)

Cell differentiation is the process whereby different functional cell types arise in development. For example, neurons, muscle fibers and hepatocytes (liver cells) are well known types of differentiated cells. Differentiated cells usually produce large amounts of a few proteins that are required for their specific function and this gives them the characteristic appearance that enables them to be recognized under the light microscope. The genes encoding these proteins are highly active. Typically their Cell differentiation is the process whereby different functional cell types arise in development. For example, neurons, muscle fibers and hepatocytes (liver cells) are well known types of differentiated cells. Differentiated cells usually produce large amounts of a few proteins that are required for their specific function and this gives them the characteristic appearance that enables them to be recognized under the light microscope. The genes encoding these proteins are highly active. Typically their chromatin structure is very open, allowing access for the transcription enzymes, and specific transcription factors bind to regulatory sequences in the DNA in order to activate gene expression.[1][2] For example, NeuroD is a key transcription factor for neuronal differentiation, myogenin for muscle differentiation, and HNF4 for hepatocyte differentiation. Cell differentiation is usually the final stage of development, preceded by several states of commitment which are not visibly differentiated. A single tissue, formed from a single type of progenitor cell or stem cell, often consists of several differentiated cell types. Control of their formation involves a process of lateral inhibition,[3] based on the properties of the Notch signaling pathway.[4] For example, in the neural plate of the embryo this system operates to generate a population of neuronal precursor cells in which NeuroD is highly expressed.

Regeneration

Regeneration indicates the ability to regrow a missing part.[5] This is very prevalent amongst plants, which show continuous growth, and also among colonial animals such as hydroids and ascidians. But most interest by developmental biologists has been shown in the regeneration of parts in free living animals. In particular four models have been the subject of much investigation. Two of these have the ability to regenerate whole bodies: Hydra, which can regenerate any part of the polyp from a small fragment,[6] and planarian worms, which can usually regenerate both heads and tails.[7] Both of these examples have continuous cell turnover fed by stem cells and, at least in planaria, at least some of the stem cells have been shown to be Regeneration indicates the ability to regrow a missing part.[5] This is very prevalent amongst plants, which show continuous growth, and also among colonial animals such as hydroids and ascidians. But most interest by developmental biologists has been shown in the regeneration of parts in free living animals. In particular four models have been the subject of much investigation. Two of these have the ability to regenerate whole bodies: Hydra, which can regenerate any part of the polyp from a small fragment,[6] and planarian worms, which can usually regenerate both heads and tails.[7] Both of these examples have continuous cell turnover fed by stem cells and, at least in planaria, at least some of the stem cells have been shown to be pluripotent.[8] The other two models show only distal regeneration of appendages. These are the insect appendages, usually the legs of hemimetabolous insects such as the cricket,[9] and the limbs of urodele amphibians.[10] Considerable information is now available about amphibian limb regeneration and it is known that each cell type regenerates itself, except for connective tissues where there is considerable interconversion between cartilage, dermis and tendons. In terms of the pattern of structures, this is controlled by a re-activation of signals active in the embryo. There is still debate about the old question of whether regeneration is a "pristine" or an "adaptive" property.[11] If the former is the case, with improved knowledge, we might expect to be able to improve regenerative ability in humans. If the latter, then each instance of regeneration is presumed to have arisen by natural selection in circumstances particular to the species, so no general rules would be expected.

Embryonic development of animals