Interpretation of the UPD/JAK/STAT morphogen gradient in Drosophila follicle cells
Volume 8, Issue 18
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September 15, 2009
Pages 2918 - 2926http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/cc.8.18.9547
Authors: Michelle Starz-Gaiano, Mariana Melani, Hans Meinhardt and Denise Montell View affiliations
We are using Drosophila follicle cells to study the mechanisms that promote cell motility. Using genetics we identified a gene regulatory network that controls the dynamic pattern of activation of JAK/STAT in anterior follicle cells. Under the influence of a graded signal, Unpaired (UPD), JAK/STAT becomes activated first in a graded fashion. STAT, in turn, locally activates its own repressor, Apontic (APT), a new feedback regulator of JAK/STAT signaling. High levels of JAK/STAT also activate Slow Border Cells (SLBO), which undermines APT-mediated repression. In this way, cells that achieve a high JAK/STAT level maintain SLBO expression and form border cells, which then migrate out of the cell layer. Cells with lower JAK/STAT activity express more APT than SLBO, ultimately lose STAT activity, and remain in the follicular epithelium. To better understand how the graded signal is converted to an all-or-none decision to move or stay, we developed a mathematical model. Simulations using the model reproduce the observed dynamics of JAK/STAT expression in the wild type and in several mutant situations. By combining biological experiments and mathematical modeling, we can achieve a more sophisticated understanding of how cells interpret molecular gradients.