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Cell. 1989 Sep 8;58(5):955-68.

Expression of engrailed proteins in arthropods, annelids, and chordates.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


engrailed is a homeobox gene that has an important role in Drosophila segmentation. Genes homologous to engrailed have been identified in several other organisms. Here we describe a monoclonal antibody that recognizes a conserved epitope in the homeodomain of engrailed proteins of a number of different arthropods, annelids, and chordates; we use this antibody to isolate the grasshopper engrailed gene. In Drosophila embryos, the antibody reveals engrailed protein in the posterior portion of each segment during segmentation, and in a segmentally reiterated subset of neuronal cells during neurogenesis. Other arthropods, including grasshopper and two crustaceans, have similar patterns of engrailed expression. However, these patterns of expression are not shared by the annelids or chordates we examined. Our results provide the most comprehensive view that has been obtained of how expression patterns of a regulatory gene vary during evolution. On the basis of these patterns, we suggest that engrailed is a gene whose ancestral function was in neurogenesis and whose function was co-opted during the evolution of segmentation in the arthropods, but not in the annelids and chordates.

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