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Symmetry OUT, Asymmetry IN

Author(s): Raquel Lourenço | Leonor Saúde

Journal: Symmetry
ISSN 2073-8994

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 1033;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: segmentation clock | bilateral synchronization | left-right asymmetry | organ laterality

The formation of a perfect vertebrate body plan poses many questions that thrill developmental biologists. Special attention has been given to the symmetric segmental patterning that allows the formation of the vertebrae and skeletal muscles. These segmented structures derive from bilaterally symmetric units called somites, which are formed under the control of a segmentation clock. At the same time that these symmetric units are being formed, asymmetric signals are establishing laterality in nearby embryonic tissues, allowing the asymmetric placement of the internal organs. More recently, a “shield” that protects symmetric segmentation from the influence of laterality cues was uncovered. Here we review the mechanisms that control symmetric versus asymmetric development along the left-right axis among vertebrates. We also discuss the impact that these studies might have in the understanding of human congenital disorders characterized by congenital vertebral malformations and abnormal laterality phenotypes.
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