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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2009 Aug;10(8):509-12. doi: 10.1038/nrm2730.

Follow the mRNA: a new model for Bicoid gradient formation.

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University of Toronto, Department of Molecular Genetics, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Morphogens are molecules that specify cell fate in a concentration-dependent manner. A classic example is the Bicoid (BCD) protein, for which the prevailing model is that translation of bcd mRNA occurs from a point source at the anterior pole of the Drosophila melanogaster embryo followed by diffusion to produce a protein gradient. This model has been challenged by experiments showing that the diffusion rate of BCD is too slow to establish the protein gradient. The work described in a recent paper has solved this conundrum by demonstrating that a bcd mRNA gradient prefigures the BCD protein gradient.

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