Studies of the genes involved in patterning the appendages of Drosophila melanogaster have revealed a system of signaling and transcriptional regulation that is responsible for specifying the proximo-distal limb axis. Here we report the expression patterns of presumptive homologs of the Drosophila genes extradenticle, dachshund, nubbin, ventral veins lacking (a.k.a. Cf1-a), and Dll in the limbs of the woodlouse Porcellio scaber and the spider Steatoda triangulosa. Although the expression domains of the appendage genes roughly correspond to those of Drosophila, their relative positions and segmental affiliation are distinct. In addition, the expression patterns of the appendage genes allows a resolution of the segmental composition of different appendages within crustacean and spider embryos. We conclude that certain limb types, e.g., mouthparts, appear to be derived from a leg-like ground-plan via the elimination/fusion of the intermediate and distal podomeres. Moreover, we observe just such a modification during the transformation of the anterior legs into mouthparts in P. scaber. Although our data do not unequivocally resolve the question of homology of the arthropod leg segments, they do provide evidence for a single conserved proximo-distal patterning system in the development of noninsect arthropod limbs.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.