Scientists Uncover the Intricacies of the ‘On/Off Switch’ that Creates Cell Differentiation



A team of biologists has discovered how cells become different from each other during embryogenesis, a finding that offers new insights into genetic activity and has implications for better understanding the onset of disease and birth defects. Specifically, previous research had identified promoters — or “on/off” switches” — for thousands of genes. However, these studies had not delineated how these promoters are activated, leaving unclear fundamental aspects of how cells become different from each other during embryogenesis. The Molecular Cell study focused on a gene called hunchback (hb), which makes cells in the head region of the fly embryo that are different from cells in the abdomen. Learn More