Date Published:1995 Feb
The Drosophila gene wingless is a member of the Wnt gene family, a group of genes that are involved in embryonic development and the regulation of cell proliferation. wingless encodes a secreted glycoprotein that plays a role in embryogenesis as well as in the development of adult structures. In the primordia of the adult limbs, the imaginal discs, wingless is expressed in an anterior ventral sector and is required for specification of ventral fate. Ectopic expression of low levels of Wingless in the leg discs leads to partial ventralization and outgrowths of the proximodistal axis. Wingless has thus been proposed to specify ventral fate in a concentration dependent manner (i.e., as a morphogen) and to organize the proximodistal axis. We have extended the analysis of Wingless function in the leg primordium through targeted ectopic expression. We find that Wingless has two functions in the leg disc. In the specification of ventral fate, our data indicate that Wingless does not function as a morphogen but instead appears to collaborate with other factors. In addition to its role in ventral fate specification, Wingless inhibits the commitment of dorsal cells toward a determined state and influences the regulation of proliferation. We propose a model in which Wingless achieves separate functions via spatially regulated mechanisms and discuss the significance of these functions during axial patterning and organization.