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The Clockwork Embryo: Mechanisms Regulating Developmental Rate

Authors
  • Diaz-Cuadros, Margarete
  • Pourquié, Olivier
Type
Published Article
Journal
Annual Review of Genetics
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Nov 27, 2023
Volume
57
Pages
117–134
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-genet-022123-104503
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Organismal development requires the reproducible unfolding of an ordered sequence of discrete steps (cell fate determination, migration, tissue folding, etc.) in both time and space. Here, we review the mechanisms that grant temporal specificity to developmental steps, including molecular clocks and timers. Individual timing mechanisms must be coordinated with each other to maintain the overall developmental sequence. However, phenotypic novelties can also arise through the modification of temporal patterns over the course of evolution. Two main types of variation in temporal patterning characterize interspecies differences in developmental time: allochrony, where the overall developmental sequence is either accelerated or slowed down while maintaining the relative duration of individual steps, and heterochrony, where the duration of specific developmental steps is altered relative to the rest. New advances in in vitro modeling of mammalian development using stem cells have recently enabled the revival of mechanistic studies of allochrony and heterochrony. In both cases, differences in the rate of basic cellular functions such as splicing, translation, protein degradation, and metabolism seem to underlie differences in developmental time. In the coming years, these studies should identify the genetic differences that drive divergence in developmental time between species.

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