A facilitated diffusion mechanism establishes the Drosophila Dorsal gradient. Academic Article uri icon


  • The transcription factor NF-κB plays an important role in the immune system, apoptosis and inflammation. Dorsal, a Drosophila homolog of NF-κB, patterns the dorsal-ventral axis in the blastoderm embryo. During this stage, Dorsal is sequestered outside the nucleus by the IκB homolog Cactus. Toll signaling on the ventral side breaks the Dorsal/Cactus complex, allowing Dorsal to enter the nucleus to regulate target genes. Fluorescent data show that Dorsal accumulates on the ventral side of the syncytial blastoderm. Here, we use modeling and experimental studies to show that this accumulation is caused by facilitated diffusion, or shuttling, of the Dorsal/Cactus complex. We also show that active Toll receptors are limiting in wild-type embryos, which is a key factor in explaining global Dorsal gradient formation. Our results suggest that shuttling is necessary for viability of embryos from mothers with compromised dorsal levels. Therefore, Cactus not only has the primary role of regulating Dorsal nuclear import, but also has a secondary role in shuttling. Given that this mechanism has been found in other, independent, systems, we suggest that it might be more prevalent than previously thought.

published proceedings

  • Development

altmetric score

  • 56.614

author list (cited authors)

  • Carrell, S. N., O'Connell, M. D., Jacobsen, T., Pomeroy, A. E., Hayes, S. M., & Reeves, G. T

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Carrell, Sophia N||O'Connell, Michael D||Jacobsen, Thomas||Pomeroy, Amy E||Hayes, Stephanie M||Reeves, Gregory T

publication date

  • December 2017