Physics as conductor of embryogenesis
The embryonic development of the transparent worm Caenorhabditis elegans is remarkably robust - virtually all adult animals end up with the same number of cells that have undergone the same migration and differentiation pathways. This almost deterministic and invariant developmental pattern suggests that not just genetics and molecular biology are setting the scene but that also basic physics takes part in conducting this complex play.
Based on previous work, which had revealed that cells push each other within the embryo-engulfing eggshell, members of the Elite Graduate Program „Biological Physics“ have shown now with light-sheet fluorescence microscopy that cell volumes and cell cycle times are anti-correlated throughout embryogenesis. Moreover, experimental cycle times were seen to follow an Arrhenius scaling, i.e., their logarithm changes with the inverse ambient temperature. These experimental data are fully in line with an accompanying theoretical model based on a limiting component and an onset of protein synthesis only at the stage of gastrulation. Altogether, the new data show that basic physical principles govern robustness-related features of the embryogenesis of C. elegans.
Text: Elite Graduate Program "Biological Physics“