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Dev Cell. 2008 Oct;15(4):558-67. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2008.09.004.

Probing intrinsic properties of a robust morphogen gradient in Drosophila.

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Division of Biomedical Informatics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Research Foundation, 3333 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.


A remarkable feature of development is its reproducibility, the ability to correct embryo-to-embryo variations and instruct precise patterning. In Drosophila, embryonic patterning along the anterior-posterior axis is controlled by the morphogen gradient Bicoid (Bcd). In this article, we describe quantitative studies of the native Bcd gradient and its target Hunchback (Hb). We show that the native Bcd gradient is highly reproducible and is itself scaled with embryo length. While a precise Bcd gradient is necessary for precise Hb expression, it still has positional errors greater than Hb expression. We describe analyses further probing mechanisms for Bcd gradient scaling and correction of its residual positional errors. Our results suggest a simple model of a robust Bcd gradient sufficient to achieve scaled and precise activation of its targets. The robustness of this gradient is conferred by its intrinsic properties of "self-correcting" the inevitable input variations to achieve a precise and reproducible output.

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