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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 1986; 83(3): 679–683.
PMCID: PMC322927

Determinator-inhibitor pairs as a mechanism for threshold setting in development: a possible function for pseudogenes.


Thresholds are frequently thought to be involved in the development of discrete structures in response to a shallow, monotonic gradient of morphogenetic information. We propose a mechanism for threshold setting that incorporates two essential components: (i) determinator genes that produce intracellular "determinators" that control cellular differentiation during development and (ii) intracellular "inhibitors" that bind tightly and specifically to the determinators to form "determinator-inhibitor pairs" that are inactive with respect to determinator function. The interaction of these components amplifies the intracellular response to an extra-cellular morphogen, thus producing a sharp transition in determinator gene activity. This system could operate at either the RNA level with the determinator-inhibitor pairs taking the form of sense-antisense RNAs or at the protein level via a competitive inhibition mechanism. In either case this model suggests a possible role for pseudogenes in development as a source of the intracellular inhibitors.

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