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Cell. 2006 Aug 11;126(3):559-69.

A segmentation gene in tribolium produces a polycistronic mRNA that codes for multiple conserved peptides.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, University of Cologne, Z├╝lpicherstrasse 47, 50674 Cologne, Germany.


Segmentation genes in insects are required for generating the subdivisions of the early embryo. We describe here a new member of the gap family of segmentation genes in the flour beetle Tribolium, mille-pattes (mlpt). mlpt knockdown leads to transformation of the abdominal segments into thoracic segments, providing embryos with up to ten pairs of legs. We show that there are crossregulatory interactions between mlpt and the known gap genes in Tribolium, suggesting that mlpt is itself a gap gene. The mlpt gene reveals an unusual structure, as it encodes a polycistronic mRNA that codes for four peptides. mlpt appears to be the prototype of this previously unknown gene structure in eukaryotes, as we find homologous genes with the same polycistronic arrangement in other insect genomes as well.

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