Embryonic Development

The embryonic development of the Xenopus frog: the early embryonic cell cleavages are fast and occur largely in the absence gene transcription, which is activated at the mid-blastula transition, after which the embryo continues its further development into the full organism. (Xenopus illustrations © Natalya Zahn (2022))

How is a single fertilized cell able to organize itself into a complex multicellular organism? Early embryogenesis requires an incredible level of spatial and temporal coordination. Even when embryos are magnitudes larger than the arising somatic cells, the early embryonic divisions are often faster and more synchronous, yet also robust. These early divisions occur largely in the absence of transcriptional regulation and checkpoints until the so-called mid-blastula transition when the cell cycle dramatically slows down and transcription initiates.

We are interested in combining techniques of physics and biology to better understand how the early embryo (i.e. the Xenopus frog embryo) is able to precisely control these developmental processes, both temporally and spatially.

Selected publications

2018
[2] Delay models for the early embryonic cell cycle oscillator
Rombouts, J., Vandervelde, A. and Gelens, L.,
PLoS One
, volume 13, pp. 1-21, 2018.
2017
[1] Desynchronizing Embryonic Cell Division Waves Reveals the Robustness of Xenopus laevis Development
Anderson*, G. A., Gelens*, L., Baker, J. and Ferrell, J. E. Jr. (* contributed equally),
Cell Reports
, volume 21, pp. 37–46, 2017. (featured on the cover)