Dynamics of gene regulatory networks and the precision of developmental patterning
Similar to many tissues, the developing nervous system is assembled in a remarkably precise and reliable manner. This precision is necessary for the wiring of nerves into the functional neural circuits that gives the nervous system its purpose. How the precise patterns of gene expression that control cell fate arise, despite the stochasticity associated with gene regulation, is poorly understood. Using experimental perturbations and dynamical systems modelling, we found that the structure of the gene regulatory network that controls gene expression patterns also contributes to boundary precision. This is achieved, not by reducing noise in individual genes, but by the configuration of the network modulating the ability of stochastic fluctuations to initiate gene expression changes. The analysis identifies design principles of gene regulatory networks that produce precise patterns of gene expression.