Functional analyses in the hemipteran Oncopeltus fasciatus reveal conserved and derived aspects of appendage patterning in insects

Dev Biol. 2004 Jul 15;271(2):306-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2004.04.005.


The conservation of expression of appendage patterning genes, particularly Distal-less, has been shown in a wide taxonomic sampling of animals. However, the functional significance of this expression has been tested in only a few organisms. Here we report functional analyses of orthologues of the genes Distal-less, dachshund, and homothorax in the appendages of the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus (Hemiptera). This hemimetabolous insect has typical legs but highly derived mouthparts. Distal-less, dachshund, and homothorax are conserved in their individual expression patterns and functions in the legs of Oncopeltus, but their functions in other appendages are in some cases divergent. We find that specification of antennal identity does not require wild-type Distal-less activity in Oncopeltus as it does in Drosophila. Additionally, the mouthparts of Oncopeltus show novel patterns of gene expression and function, relative to other insects. Expression of Distal-less in the maxillary stylets of Oncopeltus does not seem necessary for proper development of this appendage, while dachshund and homothorax are crucial for formation of the mandibular and maxillary stylets. These data are used to evaluate hypotheses for the evolution of hemipteran mouthparts and the evolution of developmental mechanisms in insect appendages in general.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / ultrastructure
  • Extremities / embryology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Hemiptera / embryology*
  • Hemiptera / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • dac protein, Drosophila
  • distal-less protein, insect
  • hth protein, Drosophila