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Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Nov 11;95(20):208103. Epub 2005 Nov 9.

Finding the center reliably: robust patterns of developmental gene expression.

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  • 1Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom.


We investigate a mechanism for the robust identification of the center of a developing biological system. We assume the existence of two morphogen gradients, an activator emanating from the anterior, and a corepressor from the posterior. The corepressor inhibits the action of the activator in switching on target genes. We apply this system to Drosophila embryos, where we predict the existence of a hitherto undetected posterior corepressor. Using mathematical modeling, we show that a symmetric activator-corepressor model can quantitatively explain the precise midembryo expression boundary of the hunchback gene, and the scaling of this pattern with embryo size.

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