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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cell cycle arrest by a gradient of Dpp signaling during Drosophila eye development

Lucy C Firth12, Abhishek Bhattacharya1 and Nicholas E Baker1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY, 10461, USA

2 Current address: Syngenta, Jealott's Hill International Research Center, Bracknell, Berkshire RG42 6EY, UK

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:28  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-28

Published: 9 March 2010



The secreted morphogen Dpp plays important roles in spatial regulation of gene expression and cell cycle progression in the developing Drosophila eye. Dpp signaling is required for timely cell cycle arrest ahead of the morphogenetic furrow as a prelude to differentiation, and is also important for eye disc growth. The dpp gene is expressed at multiple locations in the eye imaginal disc, including the morphogenetic furrow that sweeps across the eye disc as differentiation initiates.


Studies of Brinker and Dad expression, and of Mad phosphorylation, establish that there is a gradient of Dpp signaling in the eye imaginal disc anterior to the morphogenetic furrow, predominantly in the anterior-posterior axis, and also Dpp signaling at the margins of the disc epithelium and in the dorsal peripodial membrane. Almost all signaling activity seems to spread through the plane of the epithelia, although peripodial epithelium cells can also respond to underlying disc cells. There is a graded requirement for Dpp signaling components for G1 arrest in the eye disc, with more stringent requirements further anteriorly where signaling is lower. The signaling level defines the cell cycle response, because elevated signaling through expression of an activated Thickveins receptor molecule arrested cells at more anterior locations. Very anterior regions of the eye disc were not arrested in response to activated receptor, however, and evidence is presented that expression of the Homothorax protein may contribute to this protection. By contrast to activated Thickveins, ectopic expression of processed Dpp leads to very high levels of Mad phosphorylation which appear to have non-physiological consequences.


G1 arrest occurs at a threshold level of Dpp signaling within a morphogen gradient in the anterior eye. G1 arrest is specific for one competent domain in the eye disc, allowing Dpp signaling to promote growth at earlier developmental stages.