© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Embryonic development involves gene networks, extracellular signaling, cell behaviors (cell division, adhesion, etc.) and mechanical interactions. How should these be coordinated to lead to complex and robust morphologies? To explore this question, we randomly wired genes and cell behaviors into a huge number of networks in EmbryoMaker. EmbryoMaker is a computational model of animal development that simulates how the 3D positions of cells, i.e. morphology, change over time due to such networks. We found that any gene network can lead to complex morphologies if this activates cell behaviors over large regions of the embryo. Importantly, however, for such complex morphologies to be robust to noise, gene networks should include cell signaling that compartmentalizes the embryo into small regions where cell behaviors are regulated differently. If, instead, cell behaviors are equally regulated over large regions, complex but non-robust morphologies arise. We explain how compartmentalization enhances robustness and why it is a general feature of animal development. Our results are consistent with theories proposing that robustness evolved by the co-option of gene networks and extracellular cell signaling in early animal evolution.
|Publication status||Published - 18 Oct 2019|
- Gene networks