Phylogenetic fate mapping: theoretical and experimental studies applied to the development of mouse fibroblasts

Genetics. 2008 Feb;178(2):967-77. doi: 10.1534/genetics.107.081018. Epub 2008 Feb 3.


Mutations are an inevitable consequence of cell division. Similarly to how DNA sequence differences allow inferring evolutionary relationships between organisms, we and others have recently demonstrated how somatic mutations may be exploited for phylogenetically reconstructing lineages of individual cells during development in multicellular organisms. However, a problem with such "phylogenetic fate maps" is that they cannot be verified experimentally; distinguishing actual lineages within clonal populations requires direct observation of cell growth, as was used to construct the fate map of Caenorhabditis elegans, but is not possible in higher organisms. Here we employ computer simulation of mitotic cell division to determine how factors such as the quantity of cells, mutation rate, and the number of examined marker sequences contribute to fidelity of phylogenetic fate maps and to explore statistical methods for assessing accuracy. To experimentally evaluate these factors, as well as for the purpose of investigating the developmental origins of connective tissue, we have produced a lineage map of fibroblasts harvested from various organs of an adult mouse. Statistical analysis demonstrates that the inferred relationships between cells in the phylogenetic fate map reflect biological information regarding the origin of fibroblasts and is suggestive of cell migration during mesenchymal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Cell Division
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA / genetics
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Mice / classification*
  • Mice / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny*


  • DNA