This manuscript focuses on the formal analysis of the gap-gene network involved in Drosophila segmentation. The gap genes are expressed in defined domains along the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo, as a response to asymmetric maternal information in the oocyte. Though many of the individual interactions among maternal and gap genes are reasonably well understood, we still lack a thorough understanding of the dynamic behavior of the system as a whole. Based on a generalized logical formalization, the present analysis leads to the delineation of: (1) the minimal number of distinct, qualitative, functional levels associated with each of the key regulatory factors (the three maternal Bcd, Hb and Cad products, and the four gap Gt, Hb, Kr and Kni products); (2) the most crucial interactions and regulatory circuits of the earliest stages of the segmentation process; (3) the ordering of different regulatory interactions governed by each of these products according to corresponding concentration scales; and (4) the role of gap-gene cross-interactions in the transformation of graded maternal information into discrete gap-gene expression domains. The proposed model allows not only the qualitative reproduction of the patterns of gene expression characterized experimentally, but also the simulation and prediction of single and multiple mutant phenotypes.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.