Double-stranded RNA interference in the spider Cupiennius salei: the role of Distal-less is evolutionarily conserved in arthropod appendage formation

Dev Genes Evol. 2001 Feb;211(2):76-82. doi: 10.1007/s004270000121.


Chelicerates represent a basal arthropod group, which makes them an excellent system for the study of evolutionary processes in arthropods. To enable functional studies in chelicerates, we developed a double-stranded RNA-interference (RNAi) protocol for spiders while studying the function of the Distal-less gene. We isolated the Distal-less gene from the spider Cupiennius salei. Cs-Dll gene expression is first seen in cells of the prosomal segments before the outgrowth of the appendages. After the appendages have formed, Cs-Dll is expressed in the distal portion of the prosomal appendages, and in addition, in the labrum, in two pairs of opisthosmal (abdominal) limb buds, in the head region, and at the posterior-most end of the spider embryo. In embryos, in which Dll was silenced by RNAi, the distal part of the prosomal appendages was missing and the labrum was completely absent. Thus, Dll also plays a crucial role in labrum formation. However, the complete lack of labrum in RNAi embryos may point to a different nature of the labrum from the segmental appendages. Our data show that the expression of Dll in the appendages is conserved among arthropods, and furthermore that the role of Dll is evolutionarily conserved in the formation of segmental appendages in arthropods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Extremities / embryology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics*
  • Spiders / anatomy & histology
  • Spiders / embryology*
  • Spiders / genetics
  • Spiders / metabolism


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Double-Stranded