Mutations in some Polycomb group genes of Drosophila interfere with regulation of segmentation genes

Mol Gen Genet. 1994 Sep 1;244(5):474-83. doi: 10.1007/BF00583898.


Mutations in several Polycomb (Pc) group genes cause maternal-effect or zygotic segmentation defects, suggesting that Pc group genes may regulate the segmentation genes of Drosophila. We show that individuals doubly heterozygous for mutations in polyhomeotic and six other Pc group genes show gap, pair rule, and segment polarity segmentation defects. We examined double heterozygous combinations of Pc group and segmentation mutations for enhancement of adult and embryonic segmentation defects. Posterior sex combs and polyhomeotic interact with Krüppel and enhance embryonic phenotypes of hunchback and knirps, and polyhomeotic enhances even-skipped. Surprisingly, flies carrying duplications of extra sex combs (esc), that were heterozygous for mutations of even-skipped (eve), were extremely subvital. Embryos and surviving adults of this genotype showed strong segmentation defects in even-numbered segments. Antibody studies confirm that expression of eve is suppressed by duplications of esc. However, esc duplications have no effect on other gap or pair rule genes tested. To our knowledge, this is only the second triplo-abnormal phenotype associated with Pc group genes. Duplications of nine other Pc group genes have no detectable effect on eve. Expression of engrailed (en) was abnormal in the central nervous systems of most Pc group mutants. These results support a role for Pc genes in regulation of some segmentation genes, and suggest that esc may act differently from other Pc group genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / embryology
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / embryology*
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Ectoderm / physiology
  • Embryonic Development
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Heterozygote
  • Male
  • Multigene Family
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Thorax / embryology
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Repressor Proteins