The formation of the telson in the Drosophila embryo, which encompasses all structures posterior to abdominal segment 7, is under the control of the "terminal class" genes. These maternally expressed genes are organized in a signal transduction pathway which implicates cell-cell interactions between the germ cell derivatives (the nurse cells and oocyte) and the surrounding follicle cell epithelium. Activation of this localized signal transduction pathway at the termini of the embryo is believed to specify the domains of activation and repression of a set of zygotic genes whose interactions specify the various cell states required for the proper formation of tail structures.
The study of serine/threonine kinases in Drosophila is coming of age. Recently several kinases have been identified and their role in cell determination has been established. This review discusses these recent findings and describes the potential for genetic analyses of kinase activity and signal transduction.