Control of Drosophila body pattern by the hunchback morphogen gradient

Cell. 1992 Apr 17;69(2):237-249. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(92)90405-2.


Most of the thoracic and abdominal segments of Drosophila are specified early in embryogenesis by the overlapping activities of the hunchback (hb), Krüppel, knirps, and giant gap genes. The orderly expression of these genes depends on two maternal determinants: bicoid, which activates hb transcription anteriorly, and nanos, which blocks translation of hb transcripts posteriorly. Here we provide evidence that the resulting gradient of hb protein dictates where the Krüppel, knirps, and giant genes are expressed by providing a series of concentration thresholds that regulate each gene independently. Thus, hb protein functions as a classical morphogen, triggering several distinct responses as a function of its graded distribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins*
  • Insect Hormones / metabolism*
  • Juvenile Hormones / metabolism*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Trans-Activators*
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Insect Hormones
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • bcd protein, Drosophila
  • hb protein, Drosophila