Quantal and proliferative cell cycles: how lineages generate cell diversity and maintain fidelity.

H. Holtzer, J. Biehl, P. Antin, S. Tokunaka, J. Sasse, M. Pacifici, S. Holtzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


There are no known differences between the mechanisms that generate diverse differentiation programs in a mosaic embryo such as Caenorhabdites elegans or in a regulative embryo such as a chick. Transit through an invariant sequence of compartments in a lineage is obligatory for a given precursor cell 1) to inherit its differentiation program from its mother, and 2) to transmit to its daughters, by way of a predetermined binary decision, a new differentiation program. The inheritability of a differentiation program must be encoded in a structural molecule. We postulate that during an S period of a quantal cell cycle, chromosomal structures are so altered that a network of genes that could not be transcribed in the mother becomes available for transcription in the daughters. We do not view as a likely possibility the traditional notion that cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions instruct or commit blank, naive cells to transform into cells with unique differentiation programs. From this perspective, we have initiated experiments to determine the minimal rounds of DNA synthesis, following fertilization, that are required to generate founder cells for several major lineages in the chick. Somewhere between the 15th and 18th generations after fertilization erythrogenic hematocytoblasts that are cytokeratin-positive and vimentin- and hemoglobin-negative undergo a quantal cell cycle. Their daughters are cytokeratin-negative and vimentin- and hemoglobin-positive. DNA synthesis, but not cytokinesis, is an obligatory requirement for this switch in differentiation programs. Essentially similar findings are presented for cells in the cardiogenic, neurogenic, melanogenic, and endothelial lineages. There is no evidence that cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions are required for this diversification. Such interactions, however, may be required for the large number of proliferative cell cycles within particular compartments of particular lineages that are characteristic of all growing or expanding systems. With respect to classical "CFU cells" it is of interest that definitive white blood cells have not yet been identified in these cultures. Lastly, the high ratio of primitive red blood cells to non-red blood cells in the first 40 hours of culture is consistent with the notion that the majority of all cells present in the blastodisc at these early stages are in fact already committed to a unipotent erythrogenic lineage [5, 18, 23, 44, 45]. The issue of changing ratios of cells within compartments of a lineage, as well as of cells in different lineages, is much neglected in consideration of (a) normal embryogenesis, (b) cell-renewal in mature organisms and, particularly,

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-227
Number of pages15
JournalProgress in clinical and biological research
StatePublished - 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantal and proliferative cell cycles: how lineages generate cell diversity and maintain fidelity.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this