Positional information, in bits

J. Dubuis, G. Tkačik, E. Wieschaus, T. Gregor, W. Bialek, PNAS 110 (2013) 16301–16308.

OA 2013_PNAS_Dubuis.pdf 1.67 MB

Journal Article | Published | English

Scopus indexed
Dubuis, Julien; Tkacik, GasperIST Austria ; Wieschaus, Eric; Gregor, Thomas; Bialek, William
Cells in a developing embryo have no direct way of "measuring" their physical position. Through a variety of processes, however, the expression levels of multiple genes come to be correlated with position, and these expression levels thus form a code for "positional information." We show how to measure this information, in bits, using the gap genes in the Drosophila embryo as an example. Individual genes carry nearly two bits of information, twice as much as expected if the expression patterns consisted only of on/off domains separated by sharp boundaries. Taken together, four gap genes carry enough information to define a cell's location with an error bar of ~1% along the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo. This precision is nearly enough for each cell to have a unique identity, which is the maximum information the system can use, and is nearly constant along the length of the embryo. We argue that this constancy is a signature of optimality in the transmission of information from primary morphogen inputs to the output of the gap gene network.
Publishing Year
Date Published
Journal Title
16301 - 16308

Cite this

Dubuis J, Tkačik G, Wieschaus E, Gregor T, Bialek W. Positional information, in bits. PNAS. 2013;110(41):16301-16308. doi:10.1073/pnas.1315642110
Dubuis, J., Tkačik, G., Wieschaus, E., Gregor, T., & Bialek, W. (2013). Positional information, in bits. PNAS. National Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1315642110
Dubuis, Julien, Gašper Tkačik, Eric Wieschaus, Thomas Gregor, and William Bialek. “Positional Information, in Bits.” PNAS. National Academy of Sciences, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1315642110.
J. Dubuis, G. Tkačik, E. Wieschaus, T. Gregor, and W. Bialek, “Positional information, in bits,” PNAS, vol. 110, no. 41. National Academy of Sciences, pp. 16301–16308, 2013.
Dubuis J, Tkačik G, Wieschaus E, Gregor T, Bialek W. 2013. Positional information, in bits. PNAS. 110(41), 16301–16308.
Dubuis, Julien, et al. “Positional Information, in Bits.” PNAS, vol. 110, no. 41, National Academy of Sciences, 2013, pp. 16301–08, doi:10.1073/pnas.1315642110.
All files available under the following license(s):
Copyright Statement:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. [...]
Main File(s)
File Name
Access Level
OA Open Access
Date Uploaded
MD5 Checksum


Marked Publications

Open Data IST Research Explorer


PMID: 24089448
PubMed | Europe PMC

Search this title in

Google Scholar