Two secreted signaling molecules, wingless (wg) and decapentaplegic (dpp), are required to specify the heart in Drosophila. wg and dpp are also required to specify other cell types within the mesoderm and in many other regions of the embryo. Because the spatial patterns of wg and dpp are dynamic, different populations of mesodermal cells are exposed to different combinations of wg and/or dpp at different times. To determine whether the patterns of wg and dpp expression provide unique positional information for the specification of heart precursors, we altered these patterns. Our data suggest that wg and dpp contribute progressively to the elaboration of the expression pattern of the mesoderm-specific homeobox-containing gene tinman (tin), and that the overlap of wg and dpp at an early stage (9) as well as at a later stage (11) in the presence of tin-expressing cells directs cardiac-specific differentiation. Furthermore, ectopic tin expression in the ectoderm at wg/dpp intersects (the primordia of the thoracic imaginal disks) also leads to cardiac-specific differentiation, suggesting that tin confers mesoderm-specificity to the wg/dpp response. We conclude that ectopic heart can be generated by altering the patterns of wg and dpp within the tin-expressing mesoderm, or by ectopic induction of tin within the wg- and dpp-expressing ectoderm.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.