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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Model for the robust establishment of precise proportions in the early Drosophila embryo.

During embryonic development, a spatial pattern is formed in which proportions are established precisely. As an early pattern formation step in Drosophila embryos, an anterior-posterior gradient of Bicoid (Bcd) induces hunchback (hb) expression (Nature 337 (1989) 138; Nature 332 (1988) 281). In contrast to the Bcd gradient, the Hb profile includes information about the scale of the embryo. Furthermore, the resulting hb expression pattern shows a much lower embryo-to-embryo variability than the Bcd gradient (Nature 415 (2002) 798). An additional graded posterior repressing activity could theoretically account for the observed scaling. However, we show that such a model cannot produce the observed precision in the Hb boundary, such that a fundamentally different mechanism must be at work. We describe and simulate a model that can account for the observed precise generation of the scaled Hb profile in a highly robust manner. The proposed mechanism includes Staufen (Stau), an RNA binding protein that appears essential to precision scaling (Nature 415 (2002) 798). In the model, Stau is released from both ends of the embryo and relocalizes hb RNA by increasing its mobility. This leads to an effective transport of hb away from the respective Stau sources. The balance between these opposing effects then gives rise to scaling and precision. Considering the biological importance of robust precision scaling and the simplicity of the model, the same principle may be employed more often during development.[1]


  1. Model for the robust establishment of precise proportions in the early Drosophila embryo. Aegerter-Wilmsen, T., Aegerter, C.M., Bisseling, T. J. Theor. Biol. (2005) [Pubmed]
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