, 9:16,
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Date: 07 Aug 2012

Comparative molecular developmental aspects of the mammalian- and the avian lungs, and the insectan tracheal system by branching morphogenesis: recent advances and future directions


Gas exchangers fundamentally form by branching morphogenesis (BM), a mechanistically profoundly complex process which derives from coherent expression and regulation of multiple genes that direct cell-to-cell interactions, differentiation, and movements by signaling of various molecular morphogenetic cues at specific times and particular places in the developing organ. Coordinated expression of growth-instructing factors determines sizes and sites where bifurcation occurs, by how much a part elongates before it divides, and the angle at which branching occurs. BM is essentially induced by dualities of factors where through feedback- or feed forward loops agonists/antagonists are activated or repressed. The intricate transactions between the development orchestrating molecular factors determine the ultimate phenotype. From the primeval time when the transformation of unicellular organisms to multicellular ones occurred by systematic accretion of cells, BM has been perpetually conserved. Canonical signalling, transcriptional pathways, and other instructive molecular factors are commonly employed within and across species, tissues, and stages of development. While much still remain to be elucidated and some of what has been reported corroborated and reconciled with rest of existing data, notable progress has in recent times been made in understanding the mechanism of BM. By identifying and characterizing the morphogenetic drivers, and markers and their regulatory dynamics, the elemental underpinnings of BM have been more precisely explained. Broadening these insights will allow more effective diagnostic and therapeutic interventions of developmental abnormalities and pathologies in pre- and postnatal lungs. Conservation of the molecular factors which are involved in the development of the lung (and other branched organs) is a classic example of nature’s astuteness in economically utilizing finite resources. Once purposefully formed, well-tested and tried ways and means are adopted, preserved, and widely used to engineer the most optimal phenotypes. The material and time costs of developing utterly new instruments and routines with every drastic biological change (e.g. adaptation and speciation) are circumvented. This should assure the best possible structures and therefore functions, ensuring survival and evolutionary success.