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Science. 1999 Jan 22;283(5401):532-4.

Recruitment of a hedgehog regulatory circuit in butterfly eyespot evolution.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin, 1525 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The origin of new morphological characters is a long-standing problem in evolutionary biology. Novelties arise through changes in development, but the nature of these changes is largely unknown. In butterflies, eyespots have evolved as new pattern elements that develop from special organizers called foci. Formation of these foci is associated with novel expression patterns of the Hedgehog signaling protein, its receptor Patched, the transcription factor Cubitus interruptus, and the engrailed target gene that break the conserved compartmental restrictions on this regulatory circuit in insect wings. Redeployment of preexisting regulatory circuits may be a general mechanism underlying the evolution of novelties.

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