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Development. 2002 Apr;129(8):1967-74.

Distal-less and homothorax regulate multiple targets to pattern the Drosophila antenna.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The Drosophila antenna is a highly derived appendage required for a variety of sensory functions including olfaction and audition. To investigate how this complex structure is patterned, we examine the specific functions of genes required for antenna development. The nuclear factors, Homothorax, Distal-less and Spineless, are each required for particular aspects of antennal fate. Coexpression of Homothorax, necessary for nuclear localization of its ubiquitously expressed partner Extradenticle, with Distal-less is required to establish antenna fate. Here we test which antenna patterning genes are targets of Homothorax, Distal-less and/or Spineless. We report that the antennal expression of dachshund, atonal, spalt, and cut requires Homothorax and/or Distal-less, but not Spineless. We conclude that Distal-less and Homothorax specify antenna fates via regulation of multiple genes. We also report for the first time phenotypic consequences of losing either dachshund or spalt and spalt-related from the antenna. We find that dachshund and spalt/spalt-related are essential for proper joint formation between particular antennal segments. Furthermore, the spalt/spalt-related null antennae are defective in hearing. Hearing defects are also associated with the human diseases Split Hand/Split Foot Malformation and Townes-Brocks Syndrome, which are linked to human homologs of Distal-less and spalt, respectively. We therefore propose that there are significant genetic similarities between the auditory organs of humans and flies.

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