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Wnts as morphogens? The view from the wing of Drosophila


Morphogens are diffusible signalling molecules that pattern cellular fields by setting up differential gene expression in a concentration-dependent manner. Members of the Wnt family of signalling molecules are generally considered to be classical morphogens. However, a close analysis of their activity indicates that they do not fulfil all of the critera that are associated with the classical definition.

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Figure 1: Wingless signalling in the wing primordium of a third larval instar wing disc of Drosophila melanogaster.
Figure 2: Temporal relationship between different patterns of wingless expression and the onset and modulation of gene expression during wing development.
Figure 3: Different outcomes of concentration-dependent initiation or maintenance of gene expression.


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I would like to thank M. González Gaitán, O. Grimm and T. Klein for their very useful discussions during the gestation of this piece. My work is funded by The Wellcome Trust, UK.

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Martinez Arias, A. Wnts as morphogens? The view from the wing of Drosophila. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 4, 321–325 (2003).

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