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Development. 2002 Mar;129(5):1239-50.

Parasegmental organization of the spider embryo implies that the parasegment is an evolutionary conserved entity in arthropod embryogenesis.

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Institut für Genetik, Universität zu Köln, Weyertal 121, D-50931 Köln, Germany.


Spiders belong to the chelicerates, which is a basal arthropod group. To shed more light on the evolution of the segmentation process, orthologs of the Drosophila segment polarity genes engrailed, wingless/Wnt and cubitus interruptus have been recovered from the spider Cupiennius salei. The spider has two engrailed genes. The expression of Cs-engrailed-1 is reminiscent of engrailed expression in insects and crustaceans, suggesting that this gene is regulated in a similar way. This is different for the second spider engrailed gene, Cs-engrailed-2, which is expressed at the posterior cap of the embryo from which stripes split off, suggesting a different mode of regulation. Nevertheless, the Cs-engrailed-2 stripes eventually define the same border as the Cs-engrailed-1 stripes. The spider wingless/Wnt genes are expressed in different patterns from their orthologs in insects and crustaceans. The Cs-wingless gene is expressed in iterated stripes just anterior to the engrailed stripes, but is not expressed in the most ventral region of the germ band. However, Cs-Wnt5-1 appears to act in this ventral region. Cs-wingless and Cs-Wnt5-1 together seem to perform the role of insect wingless. Although there are differences, the wingless/Wnt-expressing cells and en-expressing cells seem to define an important boundary that is conserved among arthropods. This boundary may match the parasegmental compartment boundary and is even visible morphologically in the spider embryo. An additional piece of evidence for a parasegmental organization comes from the expression domains of the Hox genes that are confined to the boundaries, as molecularly defined by the engrailed and wingless/Wnt genes. Parasegments, therefore, are presumably important functional units and conserved entities in arthropod development and form an ancestral character of arthropods. The lack of by engrailed and wingless/Wnt-defined boundaries in other segmented phyla does not support a common origin of segmentation.

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