The development of the Drosophila genital disc

Bioessays. 2001 Aug;23(8):698-707. doi: 10.1002/bies.1099.


The imaginal discs of Drosophila melanogaster, which form the adult epidermal structures, are a good experimental model for studying morphogenesis. The genital disc forms the terminalia, which are the most sexually dimorphic structures of the fly. Both sexes of Drosophila have a single genital disc formed by three primordia. The female genital primordium is derived from 8(th) abdominal segment and is located anteriorly, the anal primordium (10 and 11(th) abdominal segments) is located posteriorly, and the male genital primordium from the 9(th) abdominal segment lies between them. In both sexes, only two of these three primordia develop to form the adult terminalia. The anal primordium develops in both sexes but, depending on the genetic sex, will form either male or female analia. However, only one of the genital primordia develops in each sex, forming either the male or the female genitalia. This depends on the genetic sex of the fly. Therefore, the genital disc is a very good experimental model of how the sex-determination and homeotic genes - which determine cell identity - interact to direct the development of a population of cells into male or female terminalia. It has been proposed that the sexually dimorphic development of the genital disc is the result of an integrated genetic input, made up by the sex-determination gene doublesex and the homeotic gene Abdominal-B. This input acts by modulating the response to Hedgehog, Wingless, and Decapentaplegic morphogenetic signals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Drosophila / embryology
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genitalia / growth & development
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Differentiation