Date Published:1995 Dec
Cell fate choice at the anterior and posterior embryonic termini of the Drosophila embryo requires the activation of a signal transduction pathway regulated by the receptor tyrosine kinase Torso. When Torso, which is uniformly distributed in the egg cell membrane, becomes activated locally at the termini, it triggers a phosphorylation cascade that culminates with localized expression of the transcription factors, tailless and huckebein. Expression of tailless and huckebein in turn determines terminal cell fates. Several genes have been characterized which encode proteins that are involved in Torso signaling: the adaptor protein Drk, the GTP-binding protein Ras1, the guanine nucleotide exchange factor Son of sevenless, and the kinases D-Raf and D-Mek. Genetic and molecular evidence supports a model in which these proteins lie in the same biochemical pathway. When activated by its ligand the membrane-bound receptor tyrosine kinase Torso initiates a signal transduction pathway mediated by Drk, Sos, and Ras1, which in turn activates a phosphorylation cascade mediated by the kinases D-Raf and D-Mek, which ultimately control the localized expression of the transcription factors tailless and huckebein. Recently, we found that D-Raf can be partially activated by Torso in the absence of Ras1, a finding supported by the phenotype of embryos lacking either Drk or Sos activity, as well as by the phenotype of a D-raf mutation that abolishes binding of Ras1 to D-Raf. These findings indicate that full D-Raf activation requires input not only from Ras1 but also from an as yet uncharacterized Ras1-independent pathway. In addition to these molecules we have characterized the putative protein tyrosine phosphatase Corkscrew as a positive transducer downstream of Torso.