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Dev Biol. 2005 Jul 15;283(2):409-23.

Functional analyses in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus (Hemiptera) support a role for Wnt signaling in body segmentation but not appendage development.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, 47405-7005, USA.


Specification of the proximal-distal (PD) axis of insect appendages is best understood in Drosophila melanogaster, where conserved signaling molecules encoded by the genes decapentaplegic (dpp) and wingless (wg) play key roles. However, the development of appendages from imaginal discs as in Drosophila is a derived state, while more basal insects produce appendages from embryonic limb buds. Therefore, the universality of the Drosophila limb PD axis specification mechanism has been debated since dpp expression in more basal insect species differs dramatically from Drosophila. Here, we test the function of Wnt signaling in the development of the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus, a species with the basal state of appendage development from limb buds. RNA interference of wg and pangolin (pan) produce defects in the germband and eyes, but not in the appendages. Distal-less and dachshund, two genes regulated by Wg signaling in Drosophila and expressed in specific PD domains along the limbs of both species, are expressed normally in the limbs of pan-depleted Oncopeltus embryos. Despite these apparently paradoxical results, Armadillo protein, the transducer of Wnt signaling, does not accumulate properly in the nuclei of cells in the legs of pan-depleted embryos. In contrast, engrailed RNAi in Oncopeltus produces cuticular and appendage defects similar to Drosophila. Therefore, our data suggest that Wg signaling is functionally conserved in the development of the germband, while it is not essential in the specification of the limb PD axis in Oncopeltus and perhaps basal insects.

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