Brian Goodwin, Axel Hunding, Stuart Kauffman

Paper #: 90-019

Spontaneous prepattern formation in a two-level hierarchy of reaction-diffusion systems is simulated in three space coordinates and time, mimicking gap gene and primary pair-rule gene expression. The model rests on the idea of Turing systems of the second kind, in which one prepattern generates position dependent rate constants for a subsequent reaction-diffusion system. Maternal genes are assumed responsible for setting up gradients from the anterior and posterior ends, one of which is needed to stabilize a double period prepattern suggested to underly the read out of the gap genes. The resulting double period pattern in turn stabilizes the next prepattern in the hierarchy, which has a short wavelength with many characteristics of the stripes seen in actual primary pair-rule gene expression. Without such hierarchical stabilizations, reaction-diffusion mechanisms yield highly patchy short wave length patterns, and thus unreliable stripes. The model yields seven stable stripes located in the middle of the embryo, with the potential for additional expression near the poles, as observed experimentally. The model does not rely on specific chemical reaction kinetics, rather the effect is general to many such kinetic schemes. This makes it robust to parameter changes, and it has good potential for adapting to size and shape changes as well. The study thus suggests that the crucial organizing principle in early Drosophilia embryogenesis is based on global field mechanisms, not on partcular local interactions.