Regulating Growth and Development


Homology Between Drosophila Antenna & Leg Segments

Insects have evolved specialized structures by variation on a theme. Not only can gene manipulations and mutations produce a leg on the head of an insect in place of an antenna, but an antenna can grow in place of a leg.

Close examination of thousands of partial transformations of antennae to leg reveals a homology between the segments of the leg and segments of the antennae (see diagram). In the development of an appendage, one set of genes determines that an appendage will develop. In the developing appendage, each segment has its own factors that inform the cells of their location (femur, tibia, &c). Other genes, determine what type of appendage will develop. The antennapedia gene, controls the expression of dozens of other genes. These genes control the differentiation and growth of the cells in the segment.  When antennapedia is properly expressed, the first segment forms  scape instead of a coxa, the second segment forms a pedicel instead of a trochanter, &c.  In the absence of antennapedia expression, the cells grow the leg structures instead.

Understanding how cell growth and development is regulated and how insects can regenerate tissue can provide useful insights into regeneration of human tissues for medical purposes.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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