In diverse vertebrate and invertebrate systems, lateral inhibition through the Delta-Notch signaling pathway can lead to cells in initially uniform epithelial tissues differentiating in "salt-and-pepper", regular spacing patterns. In this paper we examine lateral inhibition during the emergence of ciliated cells in Xenopus embryonic skin, using experimental manipulations of the Delta-Notch pathway and a connectionist gene-network model of the process. The results of our model are in agreement with previous models of regular patterning through lateral inhibition and reproduce the observations of our experimental assays. Moreover, the model provides an account for the variability of embryonic responses to the experimental assays, points to a component of lateral inhibition that may be the chief source of this variability, and suggests ways to control it. Our model could thus serve as a tool to generate predictions about this and other regular patterning systems governed by lateral inhibition.
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