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Phenotypic suppression of empty spiracles is prevented by buttonhead


Unlike the trunk segments, the anterior head segments of Drosophila are formed in the absence of pair-rule1,2 and HOX-cluster gene3 expression, by the activities of the gap-like genes orthodenticle (otd), empty spiracles (ems) and buttonhead (btd)4,5. The products of these genes are transcription factors6,7, but only EMS has a HOX-like homeodomain8,9. Indeed, ems can confer identity to trunk segments10 when other HOX-cluster gene activities are absent3,11. In trunk segments of wild-type embryos, however, ems activity is prevented by phenotypic suppression10, in which more posterior HOX-cluster genes inactivate the more anterior without affecting transcription or translation12. ems is suppressed by all other Hox-cluster genes and so is placed at the bottom of their hierarchy10. Here we show that misexpression of EMS in the head transforms segment identity in a btd-dependent manner, that misexpression of BTD in the trunk causes ems-dependent structures to develop, and that EMS and BTD interact in vitro. The data indicate that this interaction may allow ems to escape from the bottom of the HOX-cluster gene hierarchy and cause a dominant switch of homeotic prevalence in the anterior–posterior direction.

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Figure 1: Representation of the Drosophila head.
Figure 2: Misexpression of ems in the btd domain of wild-type embryos transforms mandibular to intercalary identity.
Figure 3: Transgene function in btd mutant embryos and interaction between EMS and BTD.
Figure 4: Ectopic btd expression lifts phenotypic suppression of ems. a, Cuticle pattern of a wild-type larva.

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We thank G. Dowe for sequencing; M. González-Gaitán, G. Vorbrüggen and R. Rivera-Pomar for discussions; C. Klämbt for the 22C10 antibody; and F. Janody and N. Dostatni for the maternal Gal4 driver. The work was supported by the Human Frontier Science Organization (H.J.) and by fellowships of the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie (F.S.), the Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung (B.A.P.) and the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds (J.R.).

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Correspondence to Herbert Jäckle.

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Schöck, F., Reischl, J., Wimmer, E. et al. Phenotypic suppression of empty spiracles is prevented by buttonhead. Nature 405, 351–354 (2000).

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