, Volume 197, Issue 6, pp 345-354

Terminal versus segmental development in the Drosophila embryo: the role of the homeotic gene fork head

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Mutations of the homeotic gene fork head (fkh) of Drosophila transform the non-segmented terminal regions of the embryonic ectoderm into segmental derivatives: Pre-oral head structures and the foregut are replaced by post-oral head structures which are occasionally associated with thoracic structures. Posterior tail structures including the hindgut and the Malpighian tubules are replaced by post-oral head structures associated with anterior tail structures. The fkh gene shows no maternal effect and is required only during embryogenesis. The phenotypes of double mutants indicate that fkh acts independently of other homeotic genes (ANT-C, BX-C, spalt) and caudal. In addition, the fkh domains are not expanded in Polycomb (Pc) group mutant embryos. Ectopic expression of the homeotic selector genes of the ANT-C and BX-C in Pc group mutant embryos causes segmental transformations in terminal regions of the embryo only in the absence of fkh gene activity. Thus, fkh is a region-specific homeotic rather than a selector gene, which promotes terminal as opposed to segmental development.

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