In a developing animal, morphogen gradients act to pattern tissues into distinct domains of cell types. However, despite their prevalence in development, morphogen gradient formation is a matter of debate. In our recent publication, we showed that the Dorsal/NF-B morphogen gradient, which patterns the DV axis of the early Drosophila embryo, is partially established by a mechanism of facilitated diffusion. This mechanism, also known as shuttling, occurs when a binding partner of the morphogen facilitates the diffusion of the morphogen, allowing it to accumulate at a given site. In this case, the inhibitor Cactus/IB facilitates the diffusion of Dorsal/NF-B. In the fly embryo, we used computation and experiment to not only show that shuttling occurs in the embryo, but also that it enables the viability of embryos that inherit only one copy of
dorsalmaternally. Here we further discuss our evidence behind the shuttling mechanism, the previous literature data explained by the mechanism, and how it may also be critical for robustness of development. Finally, we describe an interaction between Dorsal and BMP signaling that is likely affected by shuttling.