Segmentation involves subdivision of a developing body part into multiple repetitive units during embryogenesis. In Drosophila and other insects, embryonic segmentation is regulated by genes expressed in the same domain of every segment. Less is known about the molecular basis for segmentation of individual body parts occurring at later developmental stages. The Drosophila transcription factor AP-2 gene, dAP-2, is required for outgrowth of leg and antennal segments and is expressed in every segment boundary within the larval imaginal discs. To investigate the molecular mechanisms generating the segmentally repetitive pattern of dAP-2 expression, we performed transgenic reporter analyses and isolated multiple cis-regulatory elements that can individually or cooperatively recapitulate endogenous dAP-2 expression in different segments of the appendages. We further analyzed an enhancer specific for the proximal femur region which corresponds to the distal-most expression domain of homothorax (hth) in the leg imaginal discs. Hth is known to be responsible for the nuclear localization and, hence, function of the Hox cofactor, Extradenticle (Exd). We show that both Hth and Exd are required for dAP-2 expression in the femur and that a conserved Exd/Hox binding site is essential for enhancer activity. Our loss- and gain-of-function studies further support direct regulation of dAP-2 by Hox proteins and suggest that Hox proteins function redundantly in dAP-2 regulation. Our study reveals that discrete segment-specific enhancers underlie the seemingly simple repetitive expression of dAP-2 and provides evidence for direct regulation of leg segmentation by regional combinations of the proximodistal patterning genes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology