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Published June 2019 | Published
Journal Article Open

Communication codes in developmental signaling pathways


A handful of core intercellular signaling pathways play pivotal roles in a broad variety of developmental processes. It has remained puzzling how so few pathways can provide the precision and specificity of cell-cell communication required for multicellular development. Solving this requires us to quantitatively understand how developmentally relevant signaling information is actively sensed, transformed and spatially distributed by signaling pathways. Recently, single cell analysis and cell-based reconstitution, among other approaches, have begun to reveal the 'communication codes' through which information is represented in the identities, concentrations, combinations and dynamics of extracellular ligands. They have also revealed how signaling pathways decipher these features and control the spatial distribution of signaling in multicellular contexts. Here, we review recent work reporting the discovery and analysis of communication codes and discuss their implications for diverse developmental processes.

Additional Information

© 2019 Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. We thank L. Goentoro, J. Briscoe, A. Kicheva, S. Megason, A. Aulehla and E. Siggia for hepful discussion. We also thank C. L. Frick, N. Nandagopal, J. M. Linton, H. Klumpe, R. Kuintzle, L. Santat, R. Zhu and other members of the Elowitz lab for critical reading of the manuscript. The authors declare no competing or financial interests. The authors are supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (M.B.E.) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Pathway to Independence Career Award (R00HD087532 to P.L.). Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.

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