Feature Presentation: 3D Movies of Cell Signaling in Early Development from the Hadjantonakis Lab

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An illustration created for the cover of Developmental Cell. Credit: Claire Simon

A fundamental part of how embryos develop is the communication that takes place via protein receptors on the surface of cells. Signals relayed through these receptors instruct cells to assume distinct identities and eventually form individual tissues and organs. Innovative microscopy techniques are now enabling researchers in the Kat Hadjantonakis lab at the Sloan Kettering Institute to visualize this signaling process in living mouse embryos, as seen in these videos and discussed in the lab’s latest paper, published October 21 in the journal Developmental Cell.   

Learning more about signaling pathways has implications for understanding and treating cancer. Some of the same signaling pathways driving normal cellular differentiation are coopted by cancers, allowing them to grow and spread. These pathways have also been shown to play a role in the development of drug resistance.

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Visualizing signaling levels in individual cells in mouse embryos in 3D The first part of the video shows the localization of fibroblast growth factor signaling throughout the tissue. This is followed by a 180-degree rotation of a 3D-reconstruction and a “heat map” showing the levels of signaling activity in individual cells across a population (orange is high, blue is low).
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Comparing signaling activities under different conditions Movies depicting embryos in normal (left column), signaling-inhibited (middle column), and growth factor-treated (right column) conditions. Top row movies depict a single 2D section of signaling activity over the course of 2 hours. Middle row movies depict 3D reconstructions of signaling activity over the same 2 hours. Bottom row movies depict 3D reconstructions combined with heat maps showing the levels of signaling activity in individual cells across a population in the same 2 hours.
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