The regulation of the hunchback promoter expression by the maternal Bicoid gradient has been studied as a model system in development for many years. Yet, at the level of quantitative agreement between data and theoretical models, even the first step of this regulation, transcription, continues to be challenging. This situation is slowly progressing, thanks to quantitative live-imaging techniques coupled to advanced statistical data analysis and modelling. Here we outline the current state of our knowledge of this apparently “simple” step, highlighting the newly appreciated role of bursty transcription dynamics and its regulation.
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