The Drosophila semushi mutation blocks nuclear import of bicoid during embryogenesis

Curr Biol. 1998 Nov 19;8(23):1277-80. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(07)00538-6.


The maternal transcript of the anterior segmentation gene bicoid (bcd) is localized at the anterior pole of the Drosophila egg and translated to form a gradient in the nuclei of the syncytial blastoderm embryo after fertilization [1-3]. The nuclear gradient of Bcd protein - a transcription factor - leads to differential expression of zygotic segmentation genes. The rapid nuclear division during this stage [4] requires that Bcd quickly enters the nuclei after each mitosis using an active nuclear import system. Nuclear transport depends on the asymmetrical distribution of two forms of the small GTPase Ran: Ran-GTP is concentrated in the nucleus and Ran-GDP in the cytoplasm [5-8]. Ran requires RanGTPase-activating protein-1 (RanGAP1) on the cytoplasmic side of nuclear pore complexes to convert Ran-GTP to Ran-GDP. In vitro studies with vertebrate proteins demonstrate that the RanGAP1 associated with the nuclear pore complex is modified with small ubiquitin related modifier-1 (SUMO-1) by a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2 enzyme) [9-15]. Here, we show that mutation of the Drosophila semushi (semi) gene, which encodes an E2 enzyme, blocks nuclear import of Bcd during early embryogenesis and results in misregulation of the segmentation genes that are Bcd targets. Consequently, semi embryos have multiple defects in anterior segmentation. This study demonstrates that an E2 enzyme is required for nuclear transport during Drosophila embryogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Drosophila / embryology
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Ligases / genetics
  • Ligases / metabolism*
  • Mutation*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • bcd protein, Drosophila
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes
  • Ligases
  • ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC9

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF106664