In developing tissues, morphogen gradients are thought to initialize gene expression patterns. However, the relationship between the dynamics of morphogen-encoded signals and gene expression decisions are largely unknown. Here we examine the dynamics of the Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) pathway in
Drosophilablastoderm-stage embryos. In this tissue, the BMP pathway is highly dynamic: it begins as a broad and weak signal on the dorsal half of the embryo, then 20-30 min later refines into a narrow, intense peak centered on the dorsal midline. This dynamical progression of the BMP signal raises questions of how it stably activates target genes. Therefore, we performed live imaging of the BMP signal and found that dorsal-lateral cells experience only a short transient in BMP signaling, after which the signal is lost completely. Moreover, we measured the transcriptional response of the BMP target gene pannierin live embryos and found it to remain activated in dorsal-lateral cells, even after the BMP signal is lost. Our findings may suggest that the BMP pathway activates a memory, or ratchet mechanism that may sustain gene expression.