Drosophila embryo dorsoventral polarity is established by a maternally encoded signal transduction pathway in which three sequentially acting serine proteases, Gastrulation Defective, Snake and Easter, generate the ligand that activates the Toll receptor on the ventral side of the embryo. The spatial regulation of this pathway depends upon ventrally restricted expression of the Pipe sulfotransferase in the ovarian follicle during egg formation. Several recent observations have advanced our understanding of the mechanism regulating the spatially restricted activation of Toll. First, several protein components of the vitelline membrane layer of the eggshell have been determined to be targets of Pipe-mediated sulfation. Second, the processing of Easter by Snake has been identified as the first Pipe-dependent, ventrally-restricted processing event in the pathway. Finally, Gastrulation Defective has been shown to undergo Pipe-dependent, ventral localization within the perivitelline space and to facilitate Snake-mediated processing of Easter. Together, these observations suggest that Gastrulation Defective, localized on the interior ventral surface of the eggshell in association with Pipe-sulfated eggshell proteins, recruits and mediates an interaction between Snake and Easter. This event leads to ventrally-restricted processing and activation of Easter and consequently, localized formation of the Toll ligand, and Toll activation.
Keywords: Drosophila; Easter; Gastrulation Defective; Pipe; Snake; Spätzle; Toll; dorsal-ventral; follicle; perivitelline; sulfation; sulfonation.