The National Institute for Medical Research, London, NW7 1AA, United Kingdom
The Oates group studies a population of coupled genetic oscillators in the vertebrate embryo termed the segmentation clock. This system drives the rhythmic, sequential, and precise formation of embryonic body segments, exhibiting rich spatial and temporal phenomena spanning from molecular to tissue scales. In this talk I will discuss our recent progress in understanding how the gene expression waves that sweep across the segmentation clock are formed and how their pattern and position of arrest are regulated. We used live imaging of individual cells isolated from the segmentation clock to measure an autonomous program of differentiation that underlies the patterns observed at the tissue level. We find evidence for a slow cell-intrinsic timer that regulates this program and yet can be influenced by extrinsic signals.