The gene regulatory network basis of the "community effect," and analysis of a sea urchin embryo example.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Developmental biology, Volume 340, Issue 2, p.170-8 (2010)


2010, Animals, Center-Authored Paper, Ectoderm, Embryo, Nonmammalian, Embryonic Development, Gene Regulatory Networks, Human Biology Division, Mesoderm, Models, Biological, Nodal Protein, Sea Urchins, Signal Transduction


The "Community Effect" denotes intra-territorial signaling amongst cells which constitute a particular tissue or embryonic progenitor field. The cells of the territory express the same transcriptional regulatory state, and the intra-territorial signaling is essential to maintenance of this specific regulatory state. The structure of the underlying gene regulatory network (GRN) subcircuitry explains the genomically wired mechanism by which community effect signaling is linked to the continuing transcriptional generation of the territorial regulatory state. A clear example is afforded by the oral ectoderm GRN of the sea urchin embryo where cis-regulatory evidence, experimental embryology, and network analysis combine to provide a complete picture. We review this example and consider less well known but similar cases in other developing systems where the same subcircuit GRN topology is present. To resolve mechanistic issues that arise in considering how community effect signaling could operate to produce its observed effects, we construct and analyze the behavior of a quantitative model of community effect signaling in the sea urchin embryo oral ectoderm. Community effect network topology could constitute part of the genomic regulatory code that defines transcriptional function in multicellular tissues composed of cells in contact, and hence may have arisen as a metazoan developmental strategy.