Early Chemical Competition in Cell's Embryonic Development

RedTracker| Scientists have discovered important new information about the earliest phase of embryonic development. Studying fruit fly embryos (fertilized eggs) a Princeton University-led team has discovered protein competition for an important enzyme provides a mechanism to integrate different signals that direct early embryonic development.

These signals via the enzyme occur long before they interact with the organism’s DNA, overturning a current assumption. The fought-over enzyme, known as the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), is found in all complex organisms, ranging from yeast to humans.

Scientists believe this early stage of life development is the same in all cells. The different patterning signals received by any given cell are ultimately combined to determine its future and to tell it what kind of cell it should become.

Scientists believe that by studying this enzyme MAPK in fruit flies, they can understand human defects and disorders that lead to severe development disorders and cancer. via Science Daily

Photo caption: The Princeton team used confocal microscopy to visualize the spatial distribution of two proteins that compete for the MAPK enzyme in early fruit fly embryos. In areas where levels of a protein important for the development of the head were high (shown here in red, with brighter color indicating the presence of more protein) there was less enzyme available to act upon a different protein (shown here in blue) that is important for the development of the ends of the embryo, including the tail. (Credit: Images courteasy of Shvartsman Lab)