Dynamic interpretation of maternal inputs by the Drosophila segmentation gene network

Feng Liu, Alexander H. Morrison, Thomas Gregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Patterning of body parts in multicellular organisms relies on the interpretation of transcription factor (TF) concentrations by genetic networks. To determine the extent by which absolute TF concentration dictates gene expression and morphogenesis programs that ultimately lead to patterns in Drosophila embryos, we manipulate maternally supplied patterning determinants and measure readout concentration at the position of various developmental markers. When we increase the overall amount of the maternal TF Bicoid (Bcd) fivefold, Bcd concentrations in cells at positions of the cephalic furrow, an early morphological marker, differ by a factor of 2. This finding apparently contradicts the traditional threshold-dependent readout model, which predicts that the Bcd concentrations at these positions should be identical. In contrast, Bcd concentration at target gene expression boundaries is nearly unchanged early in development but adjusts dynamically toward the same twofold change as development progresses. Thus, the Drosophila segmentation gene network responds faithfully to Bcd concentration during early development, in agreement with the threshold model, but subsequently partially adapts in response to altered Bcd dosage, driving segmentation patterns toward their WT positions. This dynamic response requires other maternal regulators, such as Torso and Nanos, suggesting that integration of maternal input information is not achieved through molecular interactions at the time of readout but through the subsequent collective interplay of the network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6724-6729
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 23 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Gap genes
  • Gene regulatory networks
  • Pattern formation


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