zerknüllt (zen) is unique among the 18 known homeo box genes in Drosophila since it is required for the differentiation of the dorsal-ventral pattern, and does not appear to be involved in the process of segmentation. Here we show that the zen region of the Antennapedia complex (ANT-C) consists of two closely linked homeo box genes, designated z1 and z2. The z1 and z2 transcription units show essentially identical patterns of expression during early development, which are consistent with the timing and sites of zen+ gene activity. The putative proteins encoded by z1 and z2 are highly divergent and are related only by virtue of homeo box homology. We have used P-element-mediated germ line transformation to show that z1 alone can provide zen+ gene function, suggesting that the z2 gene might be dispensable. The occurrence of closely linked homeo box genes that display similar patterns of expression is not unique to the zen locus. Such gene duplications might provide important clues to the evolution of the homeo box gene family in Drosophila and other organisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology