University of Dundee

Professor Kim Dale FRSB

Establishing the vertebrate embryonic body plan
Associate Dean (International)
D'Arcy Thompson Unit, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee
Full Telephone: 
+44 (0) 1382 386290, 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.

161091: MYC activity is required for maintenance of the Neuromesodermal Progenitor signalling network and for correct timing of segmentation clock gene oscillations; Dale and colleagues

Where and when: the central role of Myc in somite formation

*Figure 7B (y’)

Although Myc transcription factors are extensively studied in the context of cancer, the inclusion of cMyc as one of the Yamanaka factors has renewed research into their roles in stem cell maintenance and embryogenesis. Myc is expressed throughout embryogenesis, but its spatiotemporal distribution has been poorly characterised. In this study, Kim Dale and colleagues sought to clarify the expression and function of Myc during early embryogenesis in mice, focussing on its role in body axis elongation and somite formation. The authors combine pharmacological inhibition and conditional loss-of-function genetic approaches to interrogate the role of Myc genes in the differentiation of neuromesodermal progenitors (NMPs) – a progenitor population that gives rise to posterior neural and mesoderm lineages. Their results show that cMyc is indeed required for the proper timing of somite formation through the regulation of NOTCH signalling. Additionally, they demonstrate that Myc operates in a positive feedback loop with WNT and FGF signalling in NMPs to facilitate axial elongation and to maintain accurate timing of the segmentation clock. This work places Myc activity at the centre of a signalling circuit that coordinates body axis elongation during embryogenesis.


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


Mastromina, I, Verrier L, Silva J.C, Storey K.G, and Dale J.K (2018) MYC activity is required for maintenance of the Neuromesodermal Progenitor signalling network and for correct timing of segmentation clock gene oscillations.
PMCID 6078331
PMID 30061166
Carrieri FA and Dale JK (2016) Turn It Down a Notch. Front. Cell Dev. Biol. 4:151.
PMCID 5241280
PMID 28149836
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.
PMCID: 4510595
PMID: 25995356
Ellis, P.S., Burbridge, S., Soubes, S., Ohyama, K., Ben-Haim, N., Chen, C., Dale, K., Shen, M.M., Constam, D., and Placzek, M. (2015) Pro Nodal acts via FGFR3 to govern duration of Shh expression in the prechordal mesoderm. Development. 142, 3821-3832. 
PMCID 712875
PMID 26417042
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.
PMCID 4601006
PMID 26357015
Marlow, V.L., Cianfanelli, F.R., Porter, M., Cairns, L.S., Dale, J.K., and Stanley-Wall, N.R. (2014) The prevalence and origin of exoprotease-producing cells in the Bacillus subtilis biofilm. Microbiology. 160, 56-66.
PMCID 3917226
PMID 24149708
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. 
PMCID 4299275
PMID 25468943
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.
PMCID 3928718
PMID 21351873
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.
PMCID 3928719
PMID 20110321
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. 
PMCID 2739441
PMID 19779553
Gibb, S., Zagorska, A., Dale, J. K., et al. (2009) Interfering with Wnt signalling alters the periodicity of the segmentation clock.DevBiol 330(1):21-31.
PMCID 2686089
PMID 19272372
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.
PMID: 16516838
Dale, J. K., M. Maroto, et al. (2003) Periodic notch inhibition by lunatic fringe underlies the chick segmentation clock. Nature 421(6920): 275-278. 
PMID 12529645
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.
PMID 9244300