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Dev Genes Evol. 2009 Oct;219(9-10):469-79. doi: 10.1007/s00427-009-0310-z. Epub 2009 Dec 19.

Separable functions of wingless in distal and ventral patterning of the Tribolium leg.

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Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institut für Zoologie und Anthropologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Abteilung Entwicklungsbiologie, GZMB Ernst-Caspari-Haus, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11, 37077, Göttingen, Germany.


The gene wingless (wg) in Drosophila is an important factor in leg development. During embryonic development wg is involved in the allocation of the limb primordia. During imaginal disk development wg is involved in distal development and it has a separate role in ventral development. The expression pattern of wg is highly conserved in all arthropods (comprising data from insects, myriapods, crustaceans, and chelicerates), suggesting that its function in leg development is also conserved. However, recent work in other insects (e.g. the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus) argued against a role of wg in leg development. We have studied the role of wg in leg development of the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum. Using stage-specific staggered embryonic RNAi in wild-type and transgenic EGFP expressing enhancer trap lines we are able to demonstrate separable functions of Tribolium wg in distal and in ventral leg development. The distal role affects all podomeres distal to the coxa, whereas the ventral role is restricted to cells along the ventral midline of the legs. In addition, severe leg defects after injection into early embryonic stages are evidence that wg is also involved in proximal development and limb allocation in Tribolium. Our data suggest that the roles of wg in leg development are highly conserved in the holometabolous insects. Further studies will reveal the degree of conservation in other arthropod groups.

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