The synthesis-diffusion-degradation model explains Bicoid gradient formation in unfertilized eggs

J. A. Drocco, E. F. Wieschaus, D. W. Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Precise formation of morphogen gradients is essential to the establishment of reproducible pattern in development. Mechanisms proposed for obtaining the requisite precision range from simple models with few parameters to more complex models involving many regulated quantities. The synthesis-diffusion-degradation (SDD) model is a relatively simple model explaining the formation of the Bicoid gradient in Drosophila melanogaster, in which the steady-state characteristic length of the gradient is determined solely by the rates of diffusion and degradation of the morphogen. In this work, we test the SDD model in unfertilized D. melanogaster eggs, which contain a single female pronucleus and lack the nuclear division cycles and other zygotic regulatory processes seen in fertilized eggs. Using two-photon live imaging as well as a novel method for quantitative imaging based on decorrelation of photoswitching waveforms, we find that the Bicoid gradient is longer and shallower in unfertilized eggs as compared to the gradient at the same time points in fertilized eggs. Using a means of measuring the Bicoid lifetime by conjugation to a photoconvertible fluorophore, we find that the lifetime is correspondingly longer in unfertilized eggs, providing qualitative and quantitative agreement with the predictions of the SDD model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number055004
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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