Robustness in Drosophila embryo patterning

From CBG
Revision as of 12:12, 1 December 2009 by Aitana (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

In the Computational Biology Group of Prof. Sven Bergmann, Aitana Morton de Lachapelle and Sascha Dalessi work on understanding the robustness of Drosophila early embryo patterning.


Bicoid (Bcd) is a well studied morphogen involved in the patterning of the anterior-posterior (AP) axis of the Drosophila embryo drievera,drieverb. Zygotic downstream genes read out this gradient and their expression domains determine the basic body plan of the embryo along this axis. The positions of these domains are remarkably insensitive to fluctuations in the external environment houmandzadeh,lucchetta and their relative proportions are maintained across embryos of different sizes. The latter feature is referred to as scaling and occurs within a single species houmandzadeh,lott and also across different species gregor05,gregor08,lott.

Recent experiments also show that the Bicoid gradient itself is rather precise and that its length scale correlates to some extent to the embryo size gregor07a,he. These new findings suggest that the precision and scaling of Bcd target genes may, at least in part, be attributed to that of the morphogen gradient itself. Therefore, we investigate single morphogen models that aim at explaining the precision and scaling of Bcd target genes at the level of the morphogen gradient. However, it is likely that other mechanisms (e.g. Bcd interactions with the staufen gene aegerter05, gap genes interactions jaeger04, Bcd interactions with maternal Hunchback and the terminal system ochoa or bistability lopes) also contribute to ensure precise domain localization and further increase robustness in AP patterning.

In our work, we measured precision in more than 150 staining images for the gap genes Krüppel (Kr), Giant (Gt) and Hunchback (Hb), as well as the pair-rule gene Even-skipped (Eve) in embryos with a single, double (wt) and quadruple dose of bcd. Our data indicated that the precision is maximal at mid-embryo as well as position-dependent rather than gene-dependent. This provided independent support for the conclusions drawn from direct measurements of Bcd gregor07a,he that the morphogen gradient itself is the main contributor to the precision of the target genes. It motivated our subsequent analytical investigation of noise propagation during Bcd gradient formation within a single-morphogen modeling framework. Our analysis showed that fluctuations in the parameters affecting morphogen production, degradation, diffusion as well as nuclear trapping can give rise naturally to highest precision at mid-embryo, provided the Bcd gradient is decoded at pre-steady state. Finally, we considered a variety of models to investigate the scaling of the morphogen gradient. In order to single out the most likely scenario, we experimentally investigated scaling at the level of the target genes. We observed somewhat elevated scaling for expression domain boundaries in the anterior part of the embryo and almost perfect scaling beyond ~40%L (L is the embryo size). This effect appeared to be position-dependent rather than gene-dependent. Based on these observations, we argue that the formation of the Bcd gradient itself is a main contributor to robust patterning along the anterior-posterior axis and that pre-steady state decoding is an efficient means to increase robustness.


We also work on the formation of the Bicoid gradient from its mRNA gradient, as suggested by a recent publication spirov. We model the active quasi-random transport of bcd mRNA from the anterior pole (along a non-polar cortical microtubules network), forming a complex with the mRNA-binding protein Staufen, in a pure diffusive way. Establishment of the Bcd protein gradient arises by local translation from the non-localized and evolving mRNA gradient. We use a simple and general formalism for the modeling of morphogen gradient formation which allows to obtain explicit analytical solutions in the 1D case. We can also estimate diffusive parameters. The model is also being compared to static source models (without mRNA transport) involving delocalization of the source (step- and Gaussian source).

Recommended reading

  • Introduction to Systems Biology, Uri Alon
  • Developmental Biology, Gilbert
  • Review on A-P patterning in the Drosophila embryo ephrussi
  • Precision and Scaling of the Bicoid gradient houmandzadehgregor05bergmanngregor07agregor07he
  • Temperature robustness of the Bicoid gradient lucchetta

References

<biblio>

  1. ephrussi pmid=14744427
  2. gregor05 pmid=16352710
  3. bergmann pmid=17298180
  4. gregor07a pmid=17632061
  5. gregor07 pmid=17632062
  6. he pmid=18854140
  7. lucchetta pmid=15858575
  8. spirov pmid=19168676
  9. drievera pmid=3383244
  10. drieverb pmid=3383245
  11. lott pmid=17569783
  12. gregor08 pmid=18328473
  13. aegerter05 pmid=15721032
  14. jaeger04 pmid=15254541
  15. ochoa pmid=15793007
  16. lopes pmid=18818726
  17. houmandzadeh pmid=11845210

</biblio>