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Development. 2005 May;132(9):2069-79. Epub 2005 Mar 23.

Non-canonical functions of hunchback in segment patterning of the intermediate germ cricket Gryllus bimaculatus.

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  • 1Department of Biological Science and Technology, Faculty of Engineering, The University of Tokushima, 2-1 Minami-Jyosanjima-cho, Tokushima City 770-8506, Japan.


In short and intermediate germ insects, only the anterior segments are specified during the blastoderm stage, leaving the posterior segments to be specified later, during embryogenesis, which differs from the segmentation process in Drosophila, a long germ insect. To elucidate the segmentation mechanisms of short and intermediate germ insects, we have investigated the orthologs of the Drosophila segmentation genes in a phylogenetically basal, intermediate germ insect, Gryllus bimaculatus (Gb). Here, we have focused on its hunchback ortholog (Gb'hb), because Drosophila hb functions as a gap gene during anterior segmentation, referred as a canonical function. Gb'hb is expressed in a gap pattern during the early stages of embryogenesis, and later in the posterior growth zone. By means of embryonic and parental RNA interference for Gb'hb, we found the following: (1) Gb'hb regulates Hox gene expression to specify regional identity in the anterior region, as observed in Drosophila and Oncopeltus; (2) Gb'hb controls germband morphogenesis and segmentation of the anterior region, probably through the pair-rule gene, even-skipped at least; (3) Gb'hb may act as a gap gene in a limited region between the posterior of the prothoracic segment and the anterior of the mesothoracic segment; and (4) Gb'hb is involved in the formation of at least seven abdominal segments, probably through its expression in the posterior growth zone, which is not conserved in Drosophila. These findings suggest that Gb'hb functions in a non-canonical manner in segment patterning. A comparison of our results with the results for other derived species revealed that the canonical hb function may have evolved from the non-canonical hb functions during evolution.

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