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Conserved and divergent aspects of terminal patterning in the beetle Tribolium castaneum

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Schröder, R., Eckert, C., Wolff, C., & Tautz, D. (2000). Conserved and divergent aspects of terminal patterning in the beetle Tribolium castaneum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(12), 6591-6596. doi:10.1073/pnas.100005497.

To infer similarities and differences in terminal pattern formation in insects, we analyzed several of the key genes of this process in the beetle Tribolium castaneum. We cloned two genes of the terminal pattern cascade, namely tailless (tll) and forkhead (fkh), from Tribolium and studied their expression patterns. In addition, we analyzed the pattern of MAP kinase activation at blastoderm stage as a possible signature for torso-dependent signaling. Further, we analyzed the late expression of the previously cloned Tribolium caudal (Tc-cad)gene. Finally, we used the upstream region of Tc-tll to drive a reporter gene construct in Drosophila. We find that this construct is activated at the terminal regions in Drosophila, suggesting that the torso-dependent pathway is conserved between the species. We show that most of the expression patterns of the genes studied here are similar in Drosophila and Tribolium, suggesting conserved functions. There is, however, one exception, namely the early function of Tc-tll at the posterior pole. In Drosophila, the posterior tll expression is involved in the direct regulation of the target genes of the terminal pathway. In Tribolium, posterior Tc-tll expression occurs only for a short time and ceases before the target genes known from Drosophila are activated. Thus, we infer that Tc-tll does not function as a direct regulator of segmentation genes at the posterior end. It is more likely to be involved in the early specification of a group of "terminal" cells, which begin to differentiate only at a later stage of embryogenesis, when much of the abdominal segmentation process is complete. Thus, there appears to have been a major shift in tll function during the evolutionary transition from short germ to long germ embryogenesis.