Mechanisms of Development


About this course

This course deals with the processes that coordinate the development of a single cell into a complex multi-cellular organism. In general, all cells of an organism originate from a single fertilized egg cell and they share the same set of genes. However, they show differential gene expression and therefore, cells can have different functions within an organism. The emphasis in this course is on the molecular mechanisms by which differentiation is induced at the right place and time during development (=pattern formation) and on stem cells. Stem cells have the ability to develop into several -if not all- cell types (pluripotency). During the course, the similarities and differences in plant and animal developmental mechanisms are explained. Mechanisms that control pattern formation in plants as well as in animals are for example:

  • the formation of gradients of morphogens that are subsequently translated into distinct regions (tissues) with sharp borders;
  • cell communication leading to the induction of a new cell type at the interface;
  • noise that by lateral inhibition is translated into a pattern.
    The underlying molecular mechanisms of such developmental concepts will be explained during the course. For example, how does a gradient of a morphogen turn on key regulators in distinctive regions, which subsequently affect the expression of target genes, and how can small random differences between cells lead to a typical pattern formation by cell-cell communication?

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • Understand molecular mechanisms that control pattern formation and maintenance of pluripotency in stem cells
  • Explain the underlying principles of the regulation of development
  • Indicate the similarities and differences between the developmental processes in plants and animals

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
CBI10306 Cell Biology; EZO10306 Human and Animal Biology I; GEN11806 Fundamentals of Genetics and Molecular Biology; CLB10803 Reproduction of Plants; PPH10806 Structure and Function of Plants.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    6 January 2025

    • Ends
      31 January 2025
    • Term *
      Period 3
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 24 Nov 2024
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University