Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Review Article
  • Published:

A gene complex controlling segmentation in Drosophila


The bithorax gene complex in Drosophila contains a minimum of eight genes that seem to code for substances controlling levels of thoracic and abdominal development. The state of repression of at least four of these genes is controlled by cis-regulatory elements and a separate locus (Polycomb) seems to code for a repressor of the complex. The wild-type and mutant segmentation patterns are consistent with an antero-posterior gradient in repressor concentration along the embryo and a proximo-distal gradient along the chromosome in the affinities for repressor of each gene's cis-regulatory element.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Lewis, E. B. Cold Spring Harb. Symp. quant. Biol. 16, 159–174 (1951).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Lewis, E. B. Caryologia Suppl 6, 100–105 (1954).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Lewis, E. B. Am. Nat. 89, 73–89 (1955).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Lewis, E. B. Am. Zoologist 3, 33–56 (1963).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Lewis, E. B. in Role of Chromosomes in Development (ed. Locke, M.) 231–252 (Academic, New York, 1964).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. Lewis, E. B. in Heritage from Mendel (ed. Brink, R. A.) 17–47 (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1967).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Lewis, E. B. Proc. 12th int. Congr. Genet. 2, 96–97 (1968).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Morata, G. & Garcia-Bellido, A. Wilhelm Roux' Archiv. 179, 125–143 (1976).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Morata, G. J. Embryol. exp. Morph. 34, 19–31 (1975).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Wheeler, M. R. Ann. ent. Soc. Am. 53, 133–137 (1960).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Lawrence, P. A., Green, S. M. & Johnston, P. J. Embryol. exp. Morph. 43, 233–245 (1978).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Tazima, Y. The Genetics of the Silkworm (Logos, London, 1964).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Auerbach, C. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. 58, 787–815 (1936).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bodenstein, D. in Biology of Drosophila (ed. Demerec, M.) 275–367 (Wiley, New York, 1950).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Lindsley, O. L. & Grell, E. H. Carnegie Inst. of Wash. Publ. No. 627 (1968).

  16. Puro, J. & Nygren, T. Hereditas 81, 237–248 (1975).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Garcia-Bellido, A. Am. Zoologist 17, 613–629 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Garcia-Bellido, A., Ripoll, P. and Morata, G. Nature new Biol. 245, 251–253 (1973).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Morata, G. & Lawrence, P. A. Nature 265, 211–216 (1977).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Kiger, J. A. Jr, Devl Biol. 50, 187–200 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Davis, R. L. & Kiger, J. A., Jr Devl Biol. 58, 114–123 (1977).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lewis, E. A gene complex controlling segmentation in Drosophila. Nature 276, 565–570 (1978).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing