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EMBO J. 2004 Nov 24;23(23):4571-82. Epub 2004 Oct 28.

Capicua integrates input from two maternal systems in Drosophila terminal patterning.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Hadassah Medical School, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.


In Drosophila, the maternal terminal system specifies cell fates at the embryonic poles via the localised stimulation of the Torso receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK). Signalling by the Torso pathway relieves repression mediated by the Capicua and Groucho repressors, allowing the restricted expression of the zygotic terminal gap genes tailless and huckebein. Here we report a novel positive input into tailless and huckebein transcription by maternal posterior group genes, previously implicated in abdomen and pole cell formation. We show that absence of a subset of posterior group genes, or their overactivation, leads to the spatial reduction or expansion of the tailless and huckebein posterior expression domains, respectively. We demonstrate that the terminal and posterior systems converge, and that exclusion of Capicua from the termini of posterior group mutants is ineffective, accounting for reduced terminal gap gene expression in these embryos. We propose that the terminal and posterior systems function coordinately to alleviate transcriptional silencing by Capicua, and that the posterior system fine-tunes Torso RTK signalling output, ensuring precise spatial domains of tailless and huckebein expression.

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