Proximodistal subdivision of Drosophila legs and wings: the elbow-no ocelli gene complex
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Appendages are thought to have arisen during evolution as outgrowths from the body wall of primitive bilateria. In Drosophila, subsets of body wall cells are set aside as appendage precursors through the action of secreted signaling proteins that direct localized expression of transcription factors. The Drosophila homeodomain protein Distal-less is expressed in the leg primordia and required for formation of legs, but not wings. The homeodomain protein Nubbin is expressed in the wing primordia and required for formation of wings, but not legs. Given that insect legs and wings have a common developmental and evolutionary origin, we sought to identify genes that underlie the specification of all appendage primordia. We present evidence that the zinc-finger proteins encoded by the elbow and no ocelli genes act in leg and wing primordia to repress body wall-specifying genes and thereby direct appendage formation.
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