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Curr Biol. 2000 Mar 23;10(6):321-4.

The progeny of wingless-expressing cells deliver the signal at a distance in Drosophila embryos.

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National Institute for Medical Research, London, NW7 1AA, UK.


Pattern formation in developing animals requires that cells exchange signals mediated by secreted proteins. How these signals spread is still unclear. It is generally assumed that they reach their target site either by diffusion or active transport (reviewed in [1] [2]). Here, we report an alternative mode of transport for Wingless (Wg), a member of the Wnt family of signaling molecules. In embryos of the fruit fly Drosophila, the wingless (wg) gene is transcribed in narrow stripes of cells abutting the source of Hedgehog protein. We found that these cells or their progeny are free to roam towards the anterior. As they do so, they no longer receive the Hedgehog signal and stop transcribing wg. The cells leaving the expression domain retain inherited Wg protein in secretory vesicles, however, and carry it forwards over a distance of up to four cell diameters. Experiments using a membrane-tethered form of Wg showed that this mechanism is sufficient to account for the normal range of Wg. Nevertheless, evidence exists that Wg can also reach distant target cells independently of protein inheritance, possibly by restricted diffusion. We suggest that both transport mechanisms operate in wild-type embryos.

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