Error Minimization in Lateral Inhibition Circuits

Sci. Signal.  06 Jul 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 129, pp. ra51
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000857

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Minimizing Errors

The development of multicellular organisms depends on the acquisition of distinct fates for different cells. In many instances, a particular cell is selected for differentiation toward a particular fate from a group of equivalent cells through a process of lateral inhibition, in which each cell produces substances that inhibit the differentiation of their neighbors. Barad et al. used probabilistic modeling to investigate sources of error in the selection of sensory organ precursor (SOP) cells in the fruit fly, a well-known system in which lateral inhibition is mediated through interactions between Notch and its ligands Delta and Serrate. Their model indicated that the accuracy of SOP selection depends on the length of the delay between the initiation of Notch ligand production by a given cell and the ensuing inhibition of the differentiation of neighboring cells. Moreover, their analysis, confirmed by observations of mutant flies, indicated that this delay—and therefore the accuracy of SOP selection—was minimized through cell-autonomous interactions between Notch and its ligands.