The possession of segmented appendages is a defining characteristic of the arthropods. By analyzing both loss-of-function and ectopic expression experiments, we show that the Notch signaling pathway plays a fundamental role in the segmentation and growth of the Drosophila leg. Local activation of Notch is necessary and sufficient to promote the formation of joints between segments. This segmentation process requires the participation of the Notch ligands, Serrate and Delta, as well as Fringe. These three proteins are each expressed in the developing leg and antennal imaginal discs in a segmentally repeated pattern that is regulated downstream of the action of Wingless and Decapentaplegic. Our studies further show that Notch activation is both necessary and sufficient to promote leg growth. We also identify target genes regulated both positively and negatively downstream of Notch signaling that are required for normal leg development. Together, these observations outline a regulatory hierarchy for the segmentation and growth of the leg. The Notch pathway is also deployed for segmentation during vertebrate somitogenesis, which raises the possibility of a common origin for the segmentation of these distinct tissues.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.