Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 1059 - 1075 (2008)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072439ls
© UPV/EHU Press

Segmenting the fly embryo: logical analysis of the role of the Segment Polarity cross-regulatory module

Lucas Sánchez1,*, Claudine Chaouiya2 and Denis Thieffry2

1Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (C.S.I.C.), Madrid, Spain and 2U928 - TAGC / INSERM & Université de la Méditerranée, Parc Scientifique de Luminy, Marseille, France

ABSTRACT Initially activated by the pair-rule genes, the expression patterns of the segment polarity genes engrailed and wingless become consolidated through inter-cellular interactions between juxtaposed cells. We delineate a logical model focusing on a dozen molecular components at the core of the regulatory network controlling this process. Our model leads to the following conclusions: (1) the pair-rule signals, which activate engrailed and wingless genes independently of each other, need to be operative until the inter-cellular circuit involving these two genes is functional. This implies that the pair-rule pattern is instrumental both in determining the activation of the genes engrailed and wingless in rows of adjacent cells, and in consolidating these expression patterns; (2) the consolidation of engrailed and wingless expression patterns requires the simultaneous activation of both autocrine and paracrine Wingless-pathways, and the Hedgehog pathway; (3) protein kinase A plays at least two roles through the phosphorylation of Cubitus interruptus, the effector molecule of the Hedgehog signalling pathway and (4) the roles of Sloppy-paired and Naked in the delineation of the engrailed and wingless expression domains are emphasized as being important for segmental boundary formation. Moreover, the application of an original computational method leads to the delineation of a subset of crucial regulatory circuits enabling the coexistence of specific expression states at the cellular level, as well as specific combination of cellular states inter-connected through Wingless and Hedgehog signalling. Finally, the simulation of altered expressions of segment polarity genes leads to results consistent with the published data.

Keywords:

Drosophila, systems biology, pattern formation, segmentation, regulatory circuit

*Corresponding author e-mail: lsanchez@cib.csic.es