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Sci. Signal., 26 October 2010
Vol. 3, Issue 145, p. pe38
[DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3145pe38]


Delivering the Lateral Inhibition Punchline: It’s All About the Timing

Jeffrey D. Axelrod*

Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Abstract: Experimental and theoretical biologists have long been fascinated with the emergence of self-organizing patterns in developing organisms, and much attention has focused on Notch-mediated lateral inhibition. Within sheets of cells that may adopt either of two possible cell fates, lateral inhibition establishes patterns through the activity of a negative intercellular feedback loop involving the receptor, Notch, and its ligands Delta or Serrate. Despite a long history of intensive study in Drosophila, where the mechanism was first described, as well as in other organisms, new work continues to yield important insights. Mathematical modeling, combined with biological analyses, has now shed light on two features of the process: how antagonistic and activating ligand-receptor interactions work together to accelerate inhibition and ensure fidelity, and how filopodial dynamics contribute to the observed pattern refinement and spacing.

* Corresponding author. E-mail: jaxelrod{at}

Citation: J. D. Axelrod, Delivering the Lateral Inhibition Punchline: It’s All About the Timing. Sci. Signal. 3, pe38 (2010).

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