Are cross-regulatory interactions between homoeotic genes functionally significant?

Nature. 1990 Mar 1;344(6261):78-80. doi: 10.1038/344078a0.


The first instar larva of Drosophila consists of a chain of segments or parasegments in which the morphological pattern characteristic of each metamere is determined by the homoeotic genes, which are active in overlapping domains and are known to interact among themselves. The interactions occur at the level of transcription and allow some homoeotic genes to control the patterns and levels of expression of others. The best known among them are the down-regulation of Antennapedia (Antp) by Ultrabithorax (Ubx) and that of Ubx by abdominal-A (abd-A) and Abdominal-B (Abd-B). It has been proposed that these cross-regulatory interactions play a part in specifying cell pattern, and hence the identity of each metamere. Here we assess the functional significance of some of these interactions by expressing the Antp, Ubx or both homoeotic genes under the control of the heat-shock promoter. Predictably, we find that homoeotic gene products evade normal regulatory controls and can be maximally expressed in regions where they are normally down-regulated but, surprisingly, we find that interruption of the normal down-regulation of Antp and Ubx has no phenotypic consequences in the epidermis, where homoeotic phenotypes are normally manifest. Hence our results challenge the view that these, and possibly other cross-regulatory interactions have a role in determining segmental identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Genes, Homeobox / physiology*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Hot Temperature
  • Larva / growth & development


  • Heat-Shock Proteins