Modeling the bicoid gradient: Diffusion and reversible nuclear trapping of a stable protein

Mathieu Coppey, Alexander M. Berezhkovskii, Yoosik Kim, Alistair N. Boettiger, Stanislav Y. Shvartsman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The Bicoid gradient in the Drosophila embryo provided the first example of a morphogen gradient studied at the molecular level. The exponential shape of the Bicoid gradient had always been interpreted within the framework of the localized production, diffusion, and degradation model. We propose an alternative mechanism, which assumes no Bicoid degradation. The medium where the Bicoid gradient is formed and interpreted is very dynamic. Most notably, the number of nuclei changes over three orders of magnitude from fertilization, when Bicoid synthesis is initiated, to nuclear cycle 14 when most of the measurements were taken. We demonstrate that a model based on Bicoid diffusion and nucleocytoplasmic shuttling in the presence of the growing number of nuclei can account for most of the properties of the Bicoid concentration profile. Consistent with experimental observations, the Bicoid gradient in our model is established before nuclei migrate to the periphery of the embryo and remains stable during subsequent nuclear divisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-630
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 15 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Analysis
  • Bicoid
  • Drosophila
  • Dynamics
  • Modelling
  • Morphogen
  • Pattern formation
  • Syncytium


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