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A cysteine-clamp gene drives embryo polarity in the midge Chironomus

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Science  07 May 2015:
aaa7105
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7105

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Abstract

In the common fruit fly Drosophila, head formation is driven by a single gene, bicoid, which generates head-to-tail polarity of the main embryonic axis. Bicoid deficiency results in embryos with tail-to-tail polarity and no head. However, most insects lack bicoid, and the molecular mechanism for establishing head-to-tail polarity is poorly understood. We have identified a gene that establishes head-to-tail polarity of the mosquito-like midge, Chironomus riparius. This gene, named panish, encodes a cysteine-clamp DNA binding domain and operates through a different mechanism than bicoid. This finding, combined with the observation that the phylogenetic distributions of panish and bicoid are limited to specific families of flies, reveals frequent evolutionary changes of body axis determinants and a remarkable opportunity to study gene regulatory network evolution.

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