Arthropods and higher vertebrates both possess appendages, but these are morphologically distinct and the molecular mechanisms regulating patterning along their proximodistal axis (base to tip) are thought to be quite different. In Drosophila, gene expression along this axis is thought to be controlled primarily by a combination of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-ß) and Wnt signalling from sources of ligands, Decapentaplegic (Dpp) and Wingless (Wg), in dorsal and ventral stripes, respectively1,2,3. In vertebrates, however, proximodistal patterning is regulated by receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) activity from a source of ligands, fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), at the tip of the limb bud4. Here I revise our understanding of limb development in flies and show that the distal region is actually patterned by a distal-to-proximal gradient of RTK activity, established by a source of epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related ligands at the presumptive tip. This similarity between proximodistal patterning in vertebrates and flies supports previous suggestions5,6 of an evolutionary relationship between appendages/body-wall outgrowths in animals.
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I thank A. Tomlinson, M. Simcox, D. Chapman and R. Carthew for advice and comments on the manuscript. I also thank the following for stocks and reagents: K. Moses, J. Kumar, M. Werhli, A. Simcox, J. P. Couso, S. Kunes, T. Schubach, T. Volk, G. Struhl, H. M. Chung, M. Feeman, R. Cagan, T. Kojima, S. Cohen, K. Cook, K. Matthews, the Bloomington Stock Center, J. P. Vincent, and the Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank.
The author declares that he has no competing financial interests.
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Campbell, G. Distalization of the Drosophila leg by graded EGF-receptor activity. Nature 418, 781–785 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature00971
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