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Dev Biol. 2012 Oct 15;370(2):264-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.08.005. Epub 2012 Aug 18.

Egfr signaling regulates distal as well as medial fate in the embryonic leg of Tribolium castaneum.

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


The evolution of a mechanism to generate a proximal-distal axis perpendicular to the anterior-posterior body axis was a key event in arthropod evolution and facilitated the formation of multi-functional limbs. The study of proximodistal limb patterning in extant arthropods can provide insight into the origin and evolution of the proximal-distal axis. In Drosophila melanogaster, proximal-distal patterning is mainly organized by Wg/Dpp signaling. Egfr signaling is also involved, but is restricted to late stages and distal leg parts (tarsus and pretarsus). Here we study the role of Epidermal growth factor receptor (Egfr), spitz (spi), and pointed (pnt) in leg development in the beetle Tribolium castaneum. We show that Egfr signaling has a more complex role in T. castaneum than in D. melanogaster and is not only required in the distal leg, but is also involved in formation of the medial leg (including femur and tibia). Egfr and spi are required for the regulation of clawless (cll), Distal-less (Dll) and dachshund (dac), and RNAi leads to thickened and fused leg segments. Intriguingly, regulation of Dll and dac by Egfr signaling appears functionally separate from its role in cll regulation, because it is not mediated by the transcription factor Pnt. This suggests that Egfr signaling has a dual role with separate mediators in proximodistal axis patterning. While the regulation of distal factors like cll is evolutionarily conserved, regulation of Dll and dac appears to function in parallel or redundant with Wg/Dpp signaling, thus providing a possible explanation why this role is less evolutionarily conserved in the insects.

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