Distal-less function during Drosophila appendage and sense organ development

Dev Dyn. 2000 Aug;218(4):554-62. doi: 10.1002/1097-0177(200008)218:4<554::AID-DVDY1023>3.0.CO;2-#.


The Drosophila Distal-less (Dll) gene was identified in the early 1980s by means of dominant and recessive mutations that caused both striking antenna-to-leg transformations and leg truncations. The gene initially was named "Bristle on arista" or "Brista" because one aspect of the phenotype is the formation of leg bristles on the antenna (Sato [1984] Drosophila Information Service 60:180-182; Sunkel and Whittle [1987] Wilhelm Roux's. Arch. Dev. Biol. 196:124-132). Subsequent studies have revealed that Dll encodes a homeodomain transcription factor (Cohen et al. [1989] Nature 338:432-434) that is expressed throughout limb development from embryogenesis on (Cohen [1990] Nature 343:173-177; Weigmann and Cohen [1999] Development 126:3823-3830). Dll is required for the elaboration of distal pattern elements in the antenna, the legs, the limb-derived gnathal structures (Cohen and Jurgens [1989] Nature 482-485), and the anal plate (Gorfinkiel et al. [1999] Mech. Dev. 868:113-123) and can initiate proximodistal axis formation when expressed ectopically (Gorfinkiel et al. [1997] Genes Dev. 11:2259-2271). Dll homologs are expressed in developing appendages in at least six coelomate phyla, including chordates (Akimenko et al. [1994] J. Neurosci. 14:3475-3486; Beauchemin and Savard [1992] Dev. Biol. 154:55-65; Bulfone et al. [1993] Mech. Dev. 40:129-140; Dolle et al. [1992] Differentiation 49:93-99; Ferrari et al. [1995] Mech. Dev. 52:257-264; Panganiban et al. [1997] Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:5162-5166; Simeone et al. [1994] Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:2250-2254), consistent with requirements for Dlx function in normal limb development across the animal kingdom. Distal-less also has been implicated in various aspects of vertebrate neurogenesis (see reviews by Kraus and Lufkin [1999] J. Cell. Biochem. 32-33:133-140 and the accompanying review by Beanan and Sargent [2000] Dev. Dyn. 218:000-000). Here, I outline what is known about Dll function and regulation in Drosophila.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Extremities / embryology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Sense Organs / embryology*
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Wings, Animal / embryology*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • distal-less protein, insect