Ultrabithorax function in butterfly wings and the evolution of insect wing patterns.
BACKGROUND:. The morphological and functional evolution of appendages has played a critical role in animal evolution, but the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying appendage diversity are not understood. Given that homologous appendage development is controlled by the same Hox gene in different organisms, and that Hox genes are transcription factors, diversity may evolve from changes in the regulation of Hox target genes. Two impediments to understanding the role of Hox genes in morphological evolution have been the limited number of organisms in which Hox gene function can be studied and the paucity of known Hox-regulated target genes. We have therefore analyzed a butterfly homeotic mutant 'Hindsight', in which portions of the ventral hindwing pattern are transformed to ventral forewing identity, and we have compared the regulation of target genes by the Ultrabithorax (Ubx) gene product in Lepidopteran and Dipteran hindwings. RESULTS:. We show that Ubx gene expression is lost from patches of cells in developing Hindsight hindwings, correlating with changes in wing pigmentation, color pattern elements, and scale morphology. We use this mutant to study how regulation of target genes by Ubx protein differs between species. We find that several Ubx-regulated genes in the Drosophila haltere are not repressed by Ubx in butterfly hindwings, but that Distal-less (Dll) expression is regulated by Ubx in a unique manner in butterflies. CONCLUSIONS:. The morphological diversification of insect hindwings has involved the acquisition of different sets of target genes by Ubx in different lineages. Changes in Hox-regulated target gene sets are, in general, likely to underlie the morphological divergence of homologous structures between animals.
Weatherbee, SD; Nijhout, HF; Grunert, LW; Halder, G; Galant, R; Selegue, J; Carroll, S
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