Precision of hunchback expression in the Drosophila embryo

Michael W. Perry, Jacques P. Bothma, Ryan D. Luu, Michael Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Activation of the gap gene hunchback (hb) by the maternal Bicoid gradient is one of the most intensively studied gene regulatory interactions in animal development. Most efforts to understand this process have focused on the classical Bicoid target enhancer located immediately upstream of the P2 promoter [1-12]. However, hb is also regulated by a recently identified distal shadow enhancer as well as a neglected "stripe" enhancer, which mediates expression in both central and posterior regions of cellularizing embryos [13, 14]. Here, we employ BAC transgenesis and quantitative imaging methods to investigate the individual contributions of these different enhancers to the dynamic hb expression pattern. These studies reveal that the stripe enhancer is crucial for establishing the definitive border of the anterior Hb expression pattern, just beyond the initial border delineated by Bicoid. Removal of this enhancer impairs dynamic expansion of hb expression and results in variable cuticular defects in the mesothorax (T2) due to abnormal patterns of segmentation gene expression. The stripe enhancer is subject to extensive regulation by gap repressors, including Kruppel, Knirps, and Hb itself. We propose that this repression helps ensure precision of the anterior Hb border in response to variations in the Bicoid gradient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2247-2252
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 4 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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