In 1969, Roy J. Britten and Eric H. Davidson published Gene Regulation for Higher Cells: A Theory, in Science. A Theory proposes a minimal model of gene regulation, in which various types of genes interact to control the differentiation of cells through differential gene expression. Britten worked at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Washington, D.C., while Davidson worked at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Their paper was an early theoretical and mechanistic description of gene regulation in higher organisms.

Roy John Britten studied DNA sequences in the US in the second half of the twentieth century, and he helped discover repetitive elements in DNA sequences. Additionally, Britten helped propose models and concepts of gene regulatory networks. Britten studied the organization of repetitive elements and, analyzing data from the Human Genome Project, he found that the repetitive elements in DNA segments do not code for proteins, enzymes, or cellular parts. Britten hypothesized that repetitive elements helped cause cells to differentiate into more specific cell kinds among different organisms.

Two main elements characterize the skeletal morphology of turtles: the carapace and the plastron. For a turtle, the carapacial ridge begins in the embryo as a bulge posterior to the limbs but on both sides of the body. Such outgrowths are the first indication of shell development in turtle embryos. While the exact mechanisms underpinning the formation of the carapacial ridge are still not entirely known, some biologists argue that understanding these embryonic mechanisms is pivotal to explaining both the development of turtles and their evolutionary history.

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that regulates cell growth and differentiation during embryonic development, called embryogenesis, in animals. The hedgehog signaling pathway works both between cells and within individual cells.

In 2011, Sonja Vernes and Simon Fisher performed a series of experiments to determine which developmental processes are controlled by the mouse protein Foxp2. Previous research showed that altering the Foxp2 protein changed how neurons grew, so Vernes and Fisher hypothesized that Foxp2 would affect gene networks that involved in the development of neurons, or nerve cells. Their results confirmed that Foxp2 affected the development of gene networks involved in the growth of neurons, as well as networks that are involved in cell specialization and cell communication. The researchers determined that Foxp2 is important for a variety of developmental processes such as motor control, language acquisition, and cognition.

In 2002 Eric Davidson and his research team published 'A Genomic Regulatory Network for Development' in Science. The authors present the first experimental verification and systemic description of a gene regulatory network. This publication represents the culmination of greater than thirty years of work on gene regulation that began in 1969 with 'A Gene Regulatory Network for Development: A Theory' by Roy Britten and Davidson. The modeling of a large number of interactions in a gene network had not been achieved before. Furthermore, this model revealed behaviors of the gene networks that could only be observed at the levels of biological organization above that of the gene.

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