The lunatic fringe gene is a target of the molecular clock linked to somite segmentation in avian embryos

Curr Biol. 1998 Aug 27;8(17):979-82. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(98)70401-4.


The most obvious segments of the vertebrate embryo are the trunk mesodermal somites which give rise to the segmented vertebral column and the skeletal muscles of the body. Mechanistic insights into vertebrate somitogenesis have recently been gained from observations of rhythmic expression of the avian hairy-related gene (c-hairy1) in chick presomitic mesoderm (PSM), suggesting the existence of a molecular clock linked to somite segmentation ([1]; reviewed in [2]). Here, we show that lunatic Fringe (IFng), a vertebrate homolog of the Drosophila Fringe gene, is also expressed rhythmically in PSM. The PSM expression of IFng was observed as coordinated pulses of mRNA resembling the expression of c-hairy1. We show that c-hairy1 and IFng expression in the PSM are coincident, indicating that both genes are responding to the same segmentation clock. The genes were found to differ in their regulation, however; in contrast to c-hairy1, IFng mRNA oscillations required continued protein synthesis, suggesting that IFng could be acting downstream of c-hairy1 in the clock mechanism. In Drosophila, Fringe has been shown to play a role in modulating Notch-Delta signalling [3,4], a pathway which in vertebrates has been implicated in defining somite boundaries [5-9]. These observations place the segmentation clock upstream of the Notch-Delta pathway during vertebrate somitogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avian Proteins*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Biological Clocks / genetics*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cycloheximide / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Glycosyltransferases*
  • Mesoderm / chemistry
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Somites*


  • Avian Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • hairy1 protein, Gallus gallus
  • Cycloheximide
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • LFNG protein, Gallus gallus