A major role for zygotic hunchback in patterning the Nasonia embryo

Mary Anne Pultz, Lori Westendorf, Samuel D. Gale, Kyle Hawkins, Jeremy Lynch, Jason N. Pitt, Nick L. Reeves, Jennifer C Y Yao, Stephen Small, Claude Desplan, David S. Leaf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Developmental genetic analysis has shown that embryos of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis depend more on zygotic gene products to direct axial patterning than do Drosophila embryos. In Drosophila, anterior axial patterning is largely established by bicoid, a rapidly evolving maternal-effect gene, working with hunchback, which is expressed both maternally and zygotically. Here, we focus on a comparative analysis of Nasonia hunchback function and expression. We find that a lesion in Nasonia hunchback is responsible for the severe zygotic headless mutant phenotype, in which most head structures and the thorax are deleted, as are the three most posterior abdominal segments. This defines a major role for zygotic Nasonia hunchback in anterior patterning, more extensive than the functions described for hunchback in Drosophila or Tribolium. Despite the major zygotic role of Nasonia hunchback, we find that it is strongly expressed maternally, as well as zygotically. Nasonia Hunchback embryonic expression appears to be generally conserved; however, the mRNA expression differs from that of Drosophila hunchback in the early blastoderm. We also find that the maternal hunchback message decays at an earlier developmental stage in Nasonia than in Drosophila, which could reduce the relative influence of maternal products in Nasonia embryos. Finally, we extend the comparisons of Nasonia and Drosophila hunchback mutant phenotypes, and propose that the more severe Nasonia hunchback mutant phenotype may be a consequence of differences in functionally overlapping regulatory circuitry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3705-3715
Number of pages11
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Axis formation
  • Drosophila
  • Evolution of development
  • Hunchback
  • Hymenoptera
  • Nasonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'A major role for zygotic hunchback in patterning the Nasonia embryo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this