Lighting up the central dogma for predictive developmental biology

Hernan Garcia, Augusto Berrocal, Yang Joon Kim, Gabriella Martini, and Jiaxi Zhao, Lighting up the central dogma for predictive developmental biologyCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology, 137,1-35 (2020). [PDF]


Although the last 30 years have witnessed the mapping of the wiring diagrams of the gene regulatory networks that dictate cell fate and animal body plans, specific understanding building on such network diagrams that shows how DNA regulatory regions control gene expression lags far behind. These networks have yet to yield the predictive power necessary to, for example, calculate how the concentration dynamics of input transcription factors and DNA regulatory sequence prescribes output patterns of gene expression that, in turn, determine body plans themselves. Here, we argue that reaching a predictive understanding of developmental decision-making calls for an interplay between theory and experiment aimed at revealing how the regulation of the processes of the central dogma dictate network connections and how network topology guides cells toward their ultimate developmental fate. To make this possible, it is crucial to break free from the snapshot-based understanding of embryonic development facilitated by fixed-tissue approaches and embrace new technologies that capture the dynamics of developmental decision-making at the single cell level, in living embryos.