Heather Hardway
Reaction-diffusion models for dorsal-ventral patterning in development

In many species, the dorsal-ventral axis specified by gradients of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Extracellular proteins bind to and regulate the diffusion of BMPs to produce a precise spatial pattern, which is critical for correct axis specification. We explore the mechanism for BMP localization in Drosophila and sea urchin embryos, due to their complementary spatial domains of protein production. In Drosophila, BMP accumulates in a narrow region of the dorsal ectoderm that is a subdomain of its expression domain, while in the sea urchin, BMP signals broadly in the dorsal ectoderm in a domain that is spatially opposed to its expression. We explore the seemingly paradoxical behavior of BMP movement in the two organisms using a combination of experimental and computational approaches. I will present the results of the mathematical model, which predicts key reaction and diffusion parameters regimes necessary for correct patterning. Possible biological implications will be discussed, as well as reduction methods for the full reaction-diffusion system.

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