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Open Access Research article

The precise timeline of transcriptional regulation reveals causation in mouse somitogenesis network

Bernard Fongang and Andrzej Kudlicki*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Sealy Center for Molecular Medicine, Institute for Translational Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX, 77555, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2013, 13:42  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-13-42

Published: 5 December 2013

Abstract

Background

In vertebrate development, the segmental pattern of the body axis is established as somites, masses of mesoderm distributed along the two sides of the neural tube, are formed sequentially in the anterior-posterior axis. This mechanism depends on waves of gene expression associated with the Notch, Fgf and Wnt pathways. The underlying transcriptional regulation has been studied by whole-transcriptome mRNA profiling; however, interpretation of the results is limited by poor resolution, noisy data, small sample size and by the absence of a wall clock to assign exact time for recorded points.

Results

We present a method of Maximum Entropy deconvolution in both space and time and apply it to extract, from microarray timecourse data, the full spatiotemporal expression profiles of genes involved in mouse somitogenesis. For regulated genes, we have reconstructed the temporal profiles and determined the timing of expression peaks along the somite cycle to a single-minute resolution. Our results also indicate the presence of a new class of genes (including Raf1 and Hes7) with two peaks of activity in two distinct phases of the somite cycle. We demonstrate that the timeline of gene expression precisely reflects their functions in the biochemical pathways and the direction of causation in the regulatory networks.

Conclusions

By applying a novel framework for data analysis, we have shown a striking correspondence between gene expression times and their interactions and regulations during somitogenesis. These results prove the key role of finely tuned transcriptional regulation in the process. The presented method can be readily applied to studying somite formation in other datasets and species, and to other spatiotemporal processes.

Keywords:
Somitogenesis; Transcriptional regulation; Maximum Entropy deconvolution