Two homeobox-containing genes, tinman and bagpipe, play important roles during the specification of the midgut visceral musculature from the mesoderm during Drosophila embryogenesis. Expression of tinman in the dorsal mesoderm activates the expression of the bagpipe gene in segmental subsets of those cells, which then become determined to form the midgut visceral mesoderm. Understanding how the bagpipe gene affects this specification requires the isolation and characterization of its downstream target genes. Using an enhancer trap line that expresses its marker in the midgut visceral mesoderm, we have cloned and characterized a novel gene (vimar) that is expressed embryonically in the mid and hindgut visceral mesoderm, as well as in the CNS and PNS. The expression of this gene in the midgut visceral mesoderm initiates shortly after bagpipe expression and depends on bagpipe function. Maternal and zygotic transcripts are produced from this gene by alternative polyadenylation, and encode the same 634-amino acid protein. The vimar protein contains 15 tandem copies of the Armadillo repeat, a protein interaction domain, and is similar to mammalian Smg guanine dissociation stimulator protein, which stimulates the activity of a number of different p21 small G-proteins. These results, together with the observed lethality of vimar mutations, indicate that vimar is one of the bagpipe target genes that are required for normal development and differentiation of the midgut visceral mesoderm.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.