Signaling Dynamics Control Cell Fate in the Early Drosophila Embryo

Heath E. Johnson, Jared E. Toettcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Erk mitogen-activated protein kinase plays diverse roles in animal development. Its widespread reuse raises a conundrum: when a single kinase like Erk is activated, how does a developing cell know which fate to adopt? We combine optogenetic control with genetic perturbations to dissect Erk-dependent fates in the early Drosophila embryo. We find that Erk activity is sufficient to “posteriorize” 88% of the embryo, inducing gut endoderm-like gene expression and morphogenetic movements in all cells within this region. Gut endoderm fate adoption requires at least 1 h of signaling, whereas a 30-min Erk pulse specifies a distinct ectodermal cell type, intermediate neuroblasts. We find that the endoderm-ectoderm cell fate switch is controlled by the cumulative load of Erk activity, not the duration of a single pulse. The fly embryo thus harbors a classic example of dynamic control, where the temporal profile of Erk signaling selects between distinct physiological outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-370.e3
JournalDevelopmental cell
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 11 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

Keywords

  • Drosophila
  • Erk
  • cell signaling
  • development
  • differentiation
  • dynamics
  • optogenetics

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