The Tribolium ortholog of knirps and knirps-related is crucial for head segmentation but plays a minor role during abdominal patterning

Dev Biol. 2008 Sep 1;321(1):284-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.05.527. Epub 2008 May 20.


Segment formation in the long germ insect Drosophila is dominated by overlapping gap gene domains in the syncytial blastoderm. In the short germ beetle Tribolium castaneum abdominal segments arise from a cellular growth zone, implying different patterning mechanisms. We describe here the single Tribolium ortholog of the Drosophila genes knirps and knirps-related (called Tc-knirps). Tc-knirps expression is conserved during head patterning and at later stages. However, posterior Tc-knirps expression in the ectoderm is limited to a stripe in A1, instead of a broad abdominal domain covering segment primordia A2-A5 as in Drosophila. Tc-knirps RNAi yields only mild defects in the abdomen, at a position posterior to the abdominal Tc-knirps domain. In addition, Tc-knirps RNAi larvae lack the antennal and mandibular segments. These defects are much more severe than the head defects caused by combined inactivation of Dm-knirps and Dm-knirps-related. Our findings support the notion that the role of gap gene homologs in abdominal segmentation differs fundamentally in long and short germ insects. Moreover, the pivotal role of Tc-knirps in the head suggests an ancestral role for knirps as head patterning gene. Based on this RNAi analysis, Tc-knirps functions neither in the head nor the abdomen as a canonical gap gene.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / embryology
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Genome, Insect
  • Head / embryology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tribolium / embryology*
  • Tribolium / genetics
  • Tribolium / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • kni protein, Drosophila