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A new paradigm for developmental biology
John S. Mattick


It is usually thought that the development of complex organisms is controlled by protein regulatory factors and morphogenetic signals exchanged between cells and differentiating tissues during ontogeny. However, it is now evident that the majority of all animal genomes is transcribed, apparently in a developmentally regulated manner, suggesting that these genomes largely encode RNA machines and that there may be a vast hidden layer of RNA regulatory transactions in the background. I propose that the epigenetic trajectories of differentiation and development are primarily programmed by feed-forward RNA regulatory networks and that most of the information required for multicellular development is embedded in these networks, with cell–cell signalling required to provide important positional information and to correct stochastic errors in the endogenous RNA-directed program.

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