Notch-mediated segmentation of the appendages is a molecular phylotypic trait of the arthropods

Dev Biol. 2009 Feb 1;326(1):262-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.10.049. Epub 2008 Nov 18.


Arthropod limbs are arguably the most diverse organs in the animal kingdom. Morphological diversity of the limbs is largely based on their segmentation, because this divides the limbs into modules that can evolve separately for new morphologies and functions. Limb segmentation also distinguishes the arthropods from related phyla (e.g. onychophorans) and thus forms an important evolutionary innovation in arthropods. Understanding the genetic basis of limb segmentation in arthropods can thus shed light onto the mechanisms of macroevolution and the origin of a character (articulated limbs) that defines a new phylum (arthropods). In the fly Drosophila limb segmentation and limb growth are controlled by the Notch signaling pathway. Here we show that the Notch pathway also controls limb segmentation and growth in the spider Cupiennius salei, a representative of the most basally branching arthropod group Chelicerata, and thus this function must trace from the last common ancestor of all arthropods. The similarities of Notch and Serrate function between Drosophila and Cupiennius are extensive and also extend to target genes like odd-skipped, nubbin, AP-2 and hairy related genes. Our data confirm that the jointed appendages, which are a morphological phylotypic trait of the arthropods and the basis for naming the phylum, have a common developmental genetic basis. Notch-mediated limb segmentation is thus a molecular phylotypic trait of the arthropods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Extremities / embryology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Jagged-1 Protein
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Notch / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism*
  • Serrate-Jagged Proteins
  • Spiders / embryology*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Jagged-1 Protein
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Ser protein, Drosophila
  • Serrate-Jagged Proteins