The dorsal morphogen gradient regulates the mesoderm determinant twist in early Drosophila embryos

Jin Jiang, David Kosman, Y. Tony Ip, Michael Levine

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323 Scopus citations


A gradient of the maternal morphogen dorsal (dl) initiates the differentiation of various tissues along the dorsal-ventral axis of early Drosophila embryos. dl is a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein that is related to the mammalian regulatory factor NF-κB. Previous studies suggest that dl can function as a transcriptional repressor. To determine how dl functions as an activator we have examined the promoter of the mesoderm determinant gene twist (twi). Genetic studies suggest that peak levels of dl protein in ventral regions of early embryos initiate twi expression. Using a combination of promoter fusion-P-transformation assays, and in vitro DNA-binding assays coupled with site-directed mutagenesis, we establish a direct link between dl-binding sites and twi expression in the early embryo. We also present evidence that the dorsal-ventral limits of twi expression depend on the number and affinity of dl-binding sites present in its promoter. A comparison of twi with a second dl target gene, zen, suggests a correlation between the affinities of dl-binding sites and response to different thresholds of dl morphogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1881-1891
Number of pages11
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • Dorsal
  • Dorsal-ventral pattern
  • Drosophila embryos
  • Twist


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