Date Published:1999 Jan 1
We have examined the role in patterning of quantitative variations of MAPK activity in signaling from the Drosophila Torso (Tor) receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK). Activation of Tor at the embryonic termini leads to differential expression of the genes tailless and huckebein. We demonstrate, using a series of mutations in the signal transducers Corkscrew/SHP-2 and D-Raf, that quantitative variations in the magnitude of MAPK activity trigger both qualitatively and quantitatively distinct transcriptional responses. We also demonstrate that two chimeric receptors, Torextracellular-Egfrcytoplasmic and Torextracellular-Sevcytoplasmic, cannot fully functionally replace the wild-type Tor receptor, revealing that the precise activation of MAPK involves not only the number of activated RTK molecules but also the magnitude of the signal generated by the RTK cytoplasmic domain. Altogether, our results illustrate how a gradient of MAPK activity controls differential gene expression and, thus, the establishment of various cell fates. We discuss the roles of quantitative mechanisms in defining RTK specificity.