Genetic control and evolution of sexually dimorphic characters in Drosophila

Nature. 2000 Nov 30;408(6812):553-9. doi: 10.1038/35046017.


Sexually dimorphic abdominal pigmentation and segment morphology evolved recently in the melanogaster species group of the fruitfly Drosophila. Here we show that these traits are controlled by the bric à brac [corrected] (bab) gene, which integrates regulatory inputs from the homeotic and sex-determination pathways. bab expression is modulated segment- and sex-specifically in sexually dimorphic species, but is uniform in sexually monomorphic species. We suggest that bab has an ancestral homeotic function, and that regulatory changes at the bab locus played a key role in the evolution of sexual dimorphism. Pigmentation patterns specified by bab affect mating preferences, suggesting that sexual selection has contributed to the evolution of bab regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Homeobox
  • Genes, Insect
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Reproduction
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Differentiation / genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Bric-a-brac protein 1, Drosophila
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DSX protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Transcription Factors