, Volume 208, Issue 10, pp 558-568

Pair-rule and gap gene mutants in the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum

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 Early pattern formation in the Drosophila embryo occurs in a syncytial blastoderm where communication between nuclei is unimpeded by cell walls. During the development of other insects, similar gene expression patterns are generated in a cellular environment. In Tribolium, for instance, pair-rule stripes are transiently expressed near the posterior end of the growing germ band. To elucidate how pattern formation in such a situation deviates from that of Drosophila, functional data about the genes involved are essential. In a genetic screen for Tribolium mutants affecting the larval cuticle pattern, we isolated 4 mutants (from a total of 30) which disrupt segmentation in the thorax and abdomen. Two of these mutants display clear pair-rule phenotypes. This demonstrates that not only the expression, but also the function of pair-rule genes in this short-germ insect is in principle similar to Drosophila. The other two mutants appear to identify gap genes. They provide the first evidence for the involvement of gap genes in abdominal segmentation of short-germ embryos. However, significant differences between the phenotypes of these mutants and those of known Drosophila gap mutants exist which indicates that evolutionary changes occurred in either the regulation or action of these genes.

Received: 8 May 1998 / Accepted: 17 June 1998