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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Apr 25;97(9):4504-9.

Distinct roles of the homeotic genes Ubx and abd-A in beetle embryonic abdominal appendage development.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, 1525 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Insects are easily distinguishable by the absence of legs on the adult abdomen. Studies performed on the Dipteran, Drosophila melanogaster, indicate that this is because of the repressive effects of the homeotic genes Ultrabithorax (Ubx) and abdominal-A (abd-A) on the limb promoting gene Distal-less (Dll) during embryonic development. However, in many species appendage-like structures are present on abdominal segments in embryonic and juvenile stages. Here, by using classical genetics and double-stranded RNA-mediated gene silencing in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, a species that develops an appendage on the first abdominal segment, we investigate the roles of Ubx and Abd-A in abdominal limb development. We find that in Tribolium, Abd-A, but not Ubx, represses early expression of Dll in the embryonic abdomen. Ubx appears to modify the A1 appendage. This difference in the activities of Abd-A and Ubx is critical for proper development of this appendage. We suggest that an ancestral role of Abd-A in insect abdominal appendage development was in the repression of Dll initiation and that of Ubx was in modulation of abdominal appendage morphology.

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