University of Dundee

Dr Kim Dale

Establishing the vertebrate embryonic body plan
Royal Society University Research Fellow and Associate Dean (International)
D'Arcy Thompson Unit, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee
Full Telephone: 
+44 (0) 1382 386290 and 384940 (LABSe), int ext 86290


Analysis of Primitive Streak stem cells and the role of Notch in regulating cell fate choice within these multipotent progenitor pools

The broad interest of the laboratory aims to further our understanding of how several genetic interactions come into play at the earliest stages of development to build the developing embryo. Primitive streak formation is reputed as being 'the most important time in ones life' since it generates the three germ layers of the embryo proper. The progenitor cells of these three germ layers ingress into the embryonic organiser and the primitive streak where they form  resident populations of stem cells for multiple tissue types. One main focus of the laboratory will be to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanism of regulation of these stem cells both in the mouse and the chick system. We will initially try to identify the location of the stem cell pools. We will then investigate the function of potential candidate signalling pathways involved in i)maintaining this stem cell state and ii) biasing these progenitors to contribute daughter cells to specific tissues inthe developing embryonic axis.

We have shown that Notch signaling is key in regulating cell fate choice within these multipotent progenitor pools which holds a promise for developing cells of desired type in in vitro ES cell culture. Following the production of the neural tube (NT), elaboration of neuronal identity begins. The NT is exquisitely patterned to eventually form the complex neuronal domains in the adult spinal cord. The correct allocation of cells to particular neuronal fates in the correct spatial location is critical for the formation of the CNS. Patterning of the NT along the dorso ventral axis into specific regionalised neuronal subtypes is primarily achieved by the morphogen Sonic hedgehog (Shh). SHH is released from two ventrally located structures which derive from the embryonic organizer, namely notochord and floor plate which results in a concentration gradient of SHH being set up along the ventral to dorsal axis which then induces expression of specific transcription factors at distinct distances from the source of the signal. We are investigating the role that Notch plays in regulating the competence of cells to respond to the SHH morphogen during DV patterning and cell fate specification in the NT.

Investigation into the molecular regulation of the Segmentation clock.

Segmentation is a universal feature of the body plan of all vertebrate species. This is most clearly seen in the vertebrate axial skeleton which is comprised of a series of segments, namely the ribs and articulating vertebrae. In vertebrate species the process of segmentation begins with the sequential formation of structures called somites, which later develop into the ribs and vertebrae. Interference with this process of somitogenesis can lead to serious segmental defects and associated pathologies, such as Spondylocostal dysostosis (SCD). The aetiology of most Abnormal vertebral segmentation (AVS) Syndromes is unknown. However one signalling pathway that has been associated with several human disorders such as SCD is the Notch signalling pathway. Somitogenesis is regulated by a molecular oscillator which drives oscillating gene expression in the paraxial mesoderm from which somites arise. The key components of the segmentation clock are intracellular components of the Notch, Wnt and FGF pathways. We have shown in mouse and chick, Notch activity is essential for both dynamic expression of all clock genes and for somite formation. Outstanding questions in the field which we are addressing are as follows:

1) Oscillating genes are negative regulators of the pathways which activate them. It seems clear how these negative feedback loops regulate oscillatory gene expression intracellularly. We are investigating how patterns of gene expression are propagated across the PSM.

2) How is the pace of clock gene oscillations regulated?

3) What is the level of cross talk and hierarchy within and between the Notch, Wnt and FGF pathways within the molecular oscillator.



BS31004     Biochemistry & Cell Biology
BS32022     Human Morphogenesis and Embryonic Development
BS32005*    Cell & Developmental Biology
BS42008*    Advanced Cell & Developmental Biology
*Module Manager

I am the Divisional representative on the Teaching and Learning Strategic Committee and as such have been responsible for co-ordinating the construction of the new 3rd year and 4th year Developmental Biology module (BS32005 and BS42008).   

I give a guest lecture in 2nd year. I also ran the 3rd year undergraduate vertebrate practical for the last 3 years.
Each year I give a seminar to the graduates as part of the Wellcome Trust PhD program.
Final year science students at Dundee are required to undertake an 11-week laboratory project as part of their degree. I have been responsible for one or two of these students annually.
I also host at least one 2nd, 3rd of 4th year summer student in my lab each summer


Carrieri FA and Dale JK (2017). “Turn It Down a Notch.” Front. Cell Dev. Biol. 4:151. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2016.00151

Stasiulewicz, M., S. D. Gray, S. D., Dale, J. K., et al. (2015). "A conserved role for Notch signaling in priming the cellular response to Shh through ciliary localisation of the key Shh transducer Smo." Development 142(13): 2291-2303.

Wiedermann, G., Bone, R. A., Dale, J. K., et al. (2015). "A balance of positive and negative regulators determines the pace of the segmentation clock." Elife 4: e05842.

Bone, R. A., Bailey, C. S., Dale, J. K., et al. (2014). "Spatiotemporal oscillations of Notch1, Dll1 and NICD are coordinated across the mouse PSM." Development 141(24): 4806-4816.

Winzi, M. K., Hyttel, P., Dale, J. K., et al. (2011). "Isolation and characterization of node/notochord-like cells from mouse embryonic stem cells." Stem Cells Dev 20(11): 1817-1827.

Gray, S. D. and Dale, J. K. (2010). "Notch signalling regulates the contribution of progenitor cells from the chick Hensen's node to the floor plate and notochord." Development 137(4): 561-568.

Ferjentsik, Z., Hayashi, S., Dale, J. K., et al. (2009). "Notch is a critical component of the mouse somitogenesis oscillator and is essential for the formation of the somites." PLoS Genet 5(9): e1000662.

Gibb, S., Zagorska, A., Dale, J. K., et al. (2009). "Interfering with Wnt signalling alters the periodicity of the segmentation clock." Dev Biol 330(1): 21-31.

Dale, J. K., P. Malapert, et al. (2006). "Oscillations of the snail genes in the presomitic mesoderm coordinate segmental patterning and morphogenesis in vertebrate somitogenesis." Dev Cell 10(3): 355-366.

Dale, J. K., M. Maroto, et al. (2003). "Periodic notch inhibition by lunatic fringe underlies the chick segmentation clock." Nature 421(6920): 275-278.

Dale, J. K., C. Vesque, et al. (1997). "Cooperation of BMP7 and SHH in the induction of forebrain ventral midline cells by prechordal mesoderm." Cell 90(2): 257-269.