buttonhead does not contribute to a combinatorial code proposed for Drosophila head development

Ernst A. Wimmer, Stephen M. Cohen, Herbert Jäckle, Claude Desplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Drosophila gap-like segmentation genes orthodenticle, empty spiracles and buttonhead (btd) are expressed and required in overlapping domains in the head region of the blastoderm stage embryo. Their expression domains correspond to two or three segment anlagen that fail to develop in each mutant. It has been proposed that these overlapping expression domains mediate head-metamerization and could generate a combinatorial code to specify segment identity. To test this model, we developed a system for targeted gene expression in the early embryo, based on region specific promoters and the flp-out system. Misexpression of btd in the anterior half of the blastoderm embryo directed by the hunchback proximal promoter rescues the btd mutant head phenotype to wild-type. This indicates that, while btd activity is required for the formation of specific head segments, its ectopic expression does not disturb head development. We conclude that the spatial limits of btd expression are not instructive for metamerization of the head region and that btd activity does not contribute to a combinatorial code for specification of segment identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1509-1517
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1997


  • Combinatorial code
  • Ectopic expression
  • Empty spiracles
  • Head development
  • Orthodenticle
  • Segmentation
  • buttonhead

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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