Proper spatial expression of the wingless (wg) gene in the Drosophila embryonic epidermis is crucial to intrasegmental patterning. Single cell wide wg expression is initiated at the blastoderm stage in response to combinatorial regulation by the pair rule genes. Later, during gastrulation, when the epidermal expression of the pair rule genes has disappeared, wg becomes regulated by the activity of the segment polarity genes. The segment polarity gene engrailed (en) is expressed in cells adjacent to the wg-expressing cells and is required to maintain wg transcription. Since wg is in turn required to maintain en expression, wg appears to autoregulate its own expression through an endependent paracrine feedback loop. In this paper, we demonstrate that wild-type wg expression requires wg activity during stage 9, prior to its requirement for en maintenance, indicating that wg has an autoregulatory role that is distinct from its paracrine feedback loop through en. In addition, by misexpressing Wg and En in distinct spatial patterns in the epidermis, we find that En is capable of inducing expression from the endogenous wg gene only in immediate adjacent cells which have been exposed to Wg. Furthermore, exogenous Wg expression enables maintenance of endogenous wg transcription in both wg and en mutant embryos. Our results support the model that in the wild-type embryo, wg has an autoregulatory function which is distinct and separable from paracrine regulation via en. We also provide evidence that late, localized Wg expression is crucial for the asymmetric patterning of epidermal cell types as reflected in the larval cuticle.
By a complex and little understood mechanism, segment polarity genes control patterning in each segment of the Drosophila embryo. During this process, cell to cell communication plays a pivotal role and is under direct control of the products of segment polarity genes. Many of the cloned segment polarity genes have been found to be highly conserved in evolution, providing a model system for cellular interactions in other organisms. In Drosophila, two of these genes, engrailed and wingless, are expressed on either side of the parasegment border. wingless encodes a secreted molecule and engrailed a nuclear protein with a homeobox. Maintenance of engrailed expression is dependent on wingless and vice versa. To investigate the role of other segment polarity genes in the mutual control between these two genes, we have examined wingless and engrailed protein distribution in embryos mutant for each of the segment polarity genes. In embryos mutant for armadillo, dishevelled and porcupine, the changes in engrailed expression are identical to those in wingless mutant embryos, suggesting that their gene products act in the wingless pathway. In embryos mutant for hedgehog, fused, cubitus interruptus Dominant and gooseberry, expression of engrailed is affected to varying degrees. However wingless expression in the latter group decays in a similar way earlier than engrailed expression, indicating that these gene products might function in the maintenance of wingless expression. Using double mutant embryos, epistatic relationships between some segment polarity genes have been established. We present a model showing a current view of segment polarity gene interactions.
Intrasegmental patterning in the Drosophila embryo is regulated by cell-cell communication. One of the signaling pathways that operates to specify positional information throughout the segment is mediated by the wingless (wg) protein, which is the homolog of the proto-oncogene Wnt-1. The early role of wg is to stabilize engrailed (en) expression by initiating a phase of en autoregulation in the adjacent more posterior cells. Here, we report that the segment polarity gene zeste-white 3 (zw3; also known as shaggy) acts as a repressor of en autoregulation. Genetic epistasis experiments indicate that wg signaling operates by inactivating the zw3 repression of en autoactivation. In addition, we demonstrate that zw3 encodes the Drosophila homolog of mammalian glycogen synthase kinase-3.