Segmental patterning of the vertebrate embryonic axis

Nat Rev Genet. 2008 May;9(5):370-82. doi: 10.1038/nrg2320.


The body axis of vertebrates is composed of a serial repetition of similar anatomical modules that are called segments or metameres. This particular mode of organization is especially conspicuous at the level of the periodic arrangement of vertebrae in the spine. The segmental pattern is established during embryogenesis when the somites--the embryonic segments of vertebrates--are rhythmically produced from the paraxial mesoderm. This process involves the segmentation clock, which is a travelling oscillator that interacts with a maturation wave called the wavefront to produce the periodic series of somites. Here, we review our current understanding of the segmentation process in vertebrates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / embryology*
  • Somites / embryology*
  • Spine / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / genetics