Embryonic development: the Toddler mystery solved

As an embryo develops, its cells migrate to the appropriate location as they turn into new cell types. During her postdoctoral work, Andrea Pauli had identified the protein ‘Toddler’ as a crucial factor for the early movements of mesodermal cells, yet the underlying mechanism remained unknown. In a recent study published in the journal Science Advances, Pauli and her lab at the IMP report a new and intriguingly simple mechanism that explains how a single receptor can both generate and sense the concentration gradient of a molecular signal to steer cell migration.

Wildtype (left) and toddler mutant (right) zebrafish embryos transplanted with GFP-positive cells to the ventral side. Cells fail to migrate towards the embryo's future head in toddler mutant embryos (credit: Jessica Stock).

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