Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Dual regulation by the Hunchback gradient in the Drosophila embryo.

PMID 18287046


The regulation of segmentation gene expression is investigated by computational modeling using quantitative expression data. Previous tissue culture assays and transgene analyses raised the possibility that Hunchback (Hb) might function as both an activator and repressor of transcription. At low concentrations, Hb activates gene expression, whereas at high concentrations it mediates repression. Under the same experimental conditions, transcription factors encoded by other gap genes appear to function as dedicated repressors. Models based on dual regulation suggest that the Hb gradient can be sufficient for establishing the initial Kruppel (Kr) expression pattern in central regions of the precellular embryo. The subsequent refinement of the Kr pattern depends on the combination of Hb and the Giant (Gt) repressor. The dual-regulation models developed for Kr also explain some of the properties of the even-skipped (eve) stripe 3+7 enhancer. Computational simulations suggest that repression results from the dimerization of Hb monomers on the DNA template.