Protocol for Breeding Drosophila to Teach Homeobox Genetics and the History and Importance of Model Organisms in Research
A Drosophila Protocol for Teaching Homeobox Genetics and Homeotic
by Robin Dirksen
This protocol is designed to introduce homeotic mutations and homeoboxes genetics in
addition to traditional Mendelian dominant/recessive inheritance. Students will apply
principles of population genetics and statistical analysis to the data they collect on their
own crosses. The lab will hopefully provide them with concepts that will push them to ask
deeper questions about how model organisms, and Drosophila in particular, are used to
study questions about human diseases. The discussion portion will hopefully give
students an understanding of the relevance of model organisms to their own lives.
Fly life cycle and reproduction p. 3
Homeobox and homeotic genetics p. 4
History of homeobox research p. 5
Teacher Preparation p. 11
Student protocol p. 13
Extensions and Glossary p. 24
References p. 26
The student portion of the lab takes approximately 30 days and the instructor portion
takes approximately 50 days. The actual classroom time required performing the
experiments, data collection, and analysis can be done in four 90 minute blocks, and
additional time independent of class for students to come in according to their schedules
to attend to the flies. The increased time required by the instructor is to establish a stock
population large enough for the students to have adequate flies for their crosses.
-apply knowledge to form hypotheses, correctly use equipement and apply lab
-evaluate findings based on experimentation and communicate those findings in writing,
both qualitatively and quantitatively.
-discuss the value and motivation of using model organisms in research
-develop a basic understanding of homeobox genetics and developmental regulation in
organisms, and an appreciation for the universality of many genes across organisms
Background for the Instructor
Classification of the virtuous and splendid Fruit Fly
Genus: Drosophila (dew lover)
species: melanogaster (dark gut)
Drosophila Life Cycle and Reproduction
The average life span of a Lab fly is 26 days for a female, and 33 days for a male. (Under
crowded conditions this may be reduced to 12 days. Also mutant flies generally have a
shorter life span.) There are four phases to the life cycle: egg, 3 larval (instar) stages,
pupa, and adult. The timing of development is highly influenced by temperature: 10 days
from egg to adult at room temperature (25°C); 13 days at 20°C; 90 days at 15°C.
Flies may mate more than one once, and fertilized eggs are laid generally after the third
day of the female’s adult life, the eggs are .5 mm long. Larvae hatch out in 22 hours, and
grow and feed for four days, (longer at lower temperatures). The larvae are transparent,
and during the third instar stage of larval development, larvae can be seen crawling up the
sides of the culture container in preparation for pupation. At 25°C the pupa stage lasts
about 4 days. At this time one can see dark projections called pupal horns, off the
anterior end. These are the spiracles (outside opening of the respiratory tubes) turned
inside out. (It is important to notice this when doing salivary gland extraction activities,
because this procedure is best done during the third instar, but before the appearance of
The pupal case forms, darkens, and hardens and lasts for 4-6 days, during which time
metamorphosis occurs. Larval tissues are broken down (except for the brain and a few
other tissues), and imaginal discs (pockets of cells stored in the larvae) develop into adult
organs. There is a disc for each leg, wing, eye, antennae etc. The understanding of how
genes act to control the development of imaginal discs, has gotten clearer with continuing
research and has illuminated much about human embryology.
Finally the pupa is ready to eclose (emerge) into the adult stage. At first, before the cuticle
has darkened and hardened, the newly emerged female adult looks pale and puffy. (When
crossing flies of different genotypes, it is important to use virgin females, and this is one
way to visually separate out virgins in a lab population.) Adult Drosophila males and
females can be easily distinguished. Males are smaller, with a rounded, blackened tip to
their abdomen. Females have a pointed abdomen, with a pattern of even dark bands, (see
Homeoboxes and Homeotic Genes
Breeding flies is a great way to teach homeotic and homeobox genetics, the topic may be
better saved as a conclusion to their breeding activities. Let’s start with the definitions-
Homeobox: genes that encode proteins that bind and regulate the expression of DNA in
multicellular organisms. Genes containing homeoboxes are present in the genomes of
many organisms from fruit flies to humans i.e., all eukaryotic genomes, and are associated
with cell differentiation and bodily segmentation. Homeoboxes are DNA sequences
containing about 180 nucleotides that encode for corresponding sequences of usually 60
amino acids, called homeodomains, found in proteins that bind DNA and regulate gene
transcription, determining when those particular groups of genes are expressed.
Homeotic: any of a family of genes that results in a significant change in the embryonic
development of a body part that is homologous to one usually found elsewhere.
Mutations (defining genes) with a phenotype in which a given cell develops along a
pathway normally followed by a different cell type that can change the fate of an imaginal
disk in insect development.
Homeoboxes are about regulation, or timing of patterns of development in animals, fungi
and plants (genes that are mostly transcription regulators). Homeotic means that
something has been changed into the likeness of something else and homeotic genes can
be thought of as genetic switches that turn different programs of cellular differentiation
on or off.
In summary, homeotic genes encode transcription factors that control the expression of
genes responsible for particular anatomical structures, such as wings, legs, and antennae.
The homeotic genes include a 180 nucleotide sequence called the homeobox, which is
translated into a 60 amino acid domain, called the homeodomain. The homeodomain is
involved in DNA binding, as shown in the images below.
A group of mutations called homeotic genes were first discovered In the 1920’s.
However, it was not until 10-20 years later in the 1940’s at Cold Spring Harbor with the
beginnings of molecular biology, that scientists began to understand the structure of
homeotic genes. In the late 40’s and 50’ Edward B. Lewis revealed that regulatory genes
control the body plan of the fly, segment by segment. Lewis found colinearity in time and
space between the order of the genes in the bithorax complex and their affected regions
in the segments.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus identified and classified 15 genes of key
importance that controlled the development of the embryo. Their approach was to create
mutations at random then screen large numbers of flies for recessive lethals affecting
various stages of early embryogenesis. They established 27,000 lines containing mutated
chromosomes and characterized 139 mutations affecting embryogenesis. The original 15
genes were: cubitus interruptus, wingless, gooseberry, hedgehog, fused, patch, paired,
even-skipped, odd-skipped, barrel, runt, engrailed, Kruppel, knirps, and hunchback.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Eric F. Wieschaus and Edward B. Lewis were awarded the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. This earlier work led to the eventual
sequencing and cloning of these genes in the 1970’s.
Edward B. Lewis at Caltech
Through the years it has been found that homeotic mutations were not caused by one
gene, but by a complex of several genes that are very close to each other on the
chromosome (so much so that crossing over doesn’t happen). They encode transcription
factors which switch on cascades of other genes. Humans have many Hox genes located
on chromosomes 7, 17, 12 and 2.
For example, HoxA and HoxD genes specify segment identitiy along the limb axis. They
are typically found in an organized cluster and the order of the genes in the cluster
correlates to the order of the regions they affect and the timing in which they are
affected. As a consequence, mutations in the cluster result in changes in the affected
regions. When one gene is lost, the segment becomes more anterior, and a gain becomes
more posterior. Mutations to homeobox genes can produce easily visible phenotypes.
The apterous mutation is controlled by another family of homeoboxes called LIM.
The homeodomain protein motif is highly conserved across vast evolutionary distances.
The functional equivalence of homeotic proteins can be demonstrated by the fact that a
fly can function perfectly well with a chicken homeotic protein in place of its own. This
means that, despite having a last common ancestor that lived over 670 million years ago,
a given homeotic protein in chickens and that in flies are so similar, that they can actually
take each other's place.
Drosophila’s Contribution in Researching Human Disease is Undeniable
The sequencing of the Drosophila genome provides an unparalleled opportunity to
compare human disease gene counterparts in the fly genome. Approximately, 178 out of
287 human disease genes (62%) appear to be conserved in the fly. Drosophila maintains
human paralogs for neurological, hematological, endocrine, renal and immune diseases,
as well as genes for cancer and malformation and metabolic syndromes.
This next image is a ClustalW alignment of the human and Drosophila Menin proteins.
The fly protein is 34% identical and 47% similar to the human protein over its entire
length. Mutations in menin are found in a familial endocrine cancer characterized by
varying combinations of tumors in the parathyroid glands, the pancreatic islets, the
anterior pituitary, as well as a variety of other tissues. This is just one example of the
orthologs shared between humans and Drosophila.
Antennepedia is a famous example of homeotic genetics and is one of the mutations the
students will be working with. Antennapedia activates Ubx (Ultrabithorax), Hox protein
genes that specify the structures of the 2nd thoracic segment, which contains a leg and a
wing, and represses genes involved in eye and antenna formation. Thus, legs and wings,
but not eyes and antennae, will form wherever the Antennapedia protein is located. This
mutation is located on chromosome 3, position 47.5. Ubx influences midgut, central
nervous system, peripheral nervous system, leg, and haltere development.
The other mutation the students will work with is apterous, a homeobox gene that with a
recessive mutation, results in flies with either no wings (apt), or vestigial wings (vv). It is
interesting because the organization of the dorsal and ventral compartments of the wing
involves complex signaling pathways and cells in the dorsal compartment express the
homeobox gene apterous (apt), while the ventral compartment cells do not; hence
marking the dorsal/ventral boundary. It is a gene that encodes a protein of the LIM
Many transcription factors of this class have been conserved during evolution; however,
the functional significance of their structural conservation is generally not known. ap is
best known for its fundamental role as a dorsal selector gene required for patterning and
growth of the wing, but it also has other important functions required for neuronal
fasciculation, fertility, and normal viability. Mouse (mLhx2) and human (hLhx2) ap
orthologs have been isolated, and used in transgenic animals to investigate the
conservation of the ap protein during evolution. It was found that the human protein
LHX2 is able to regulate correctly ap target genes in the fly, causes the same phenotypes
as ap when ectopically produced, and most importantly rescues ap mutant phenotypes as
efficiently as the fly protein. There are also striking similarities in the expression patterns
of the Drosophila and murine genes. Both mLhx2 and ap are expressed in the respective
nerve cords, eyes, olfactory organs, brain, and limbs. These results demonstrate the
conservation of ap protein function across phyla and argue that aspects of its expression
pattern have also been conserved from a common ancestor of insects and vertebrates.
Instructor Lab Preparation
Subculturing the shipped flies
When flies arrive subculture the flies using the techniques in the student lab so that there
are about 5-10 males and 5-10 females in each new tube. If the shipped tubes have
ample flies an alternative method from the student anesthesia procedure is to prepare
large culture bottles. They can be subcultured without sexing them, it is likely that you will
have pregnant, or reproductively viable females and males in the tubes. The technique is
to gently tap the shipped tube so the flies move, but do not stick, to the bottom of the
tube, quickly remove the foam top, and let them crawl into the larger subculture tube you
have prepared. For stock cultures, larger bottles can be used to house larger populations,
whatever the size, media should be 1/5th to 2/5th the volume of the bottle (see photo on
the following page). Hydrate with an equal volume of water, what I have discovered since
these photos were taken is to hydrate the media at an angle to prevent water from
pooling, and to keep the media from falling down when the bottles are later put in the
incubator on their sides. It also helps to incubate the bottles on their sides with one end
elevated. Media should sit for a few minutes, adding water if necessary. The surface
should be moist with a shiny appearance and there should be no spaces in the media. If
the media is not completely hydrated, robust culture is compromised. Add a few grains of
yeast, but no more to the media. Label them with the date and phenotypes, and
incubate. Also, place the original flies in the incubator and as additional flies eclose they
may also be subcultured. When the stock culture population is large enough for the class,
virgin females must be obtained for the student vials so that when calculating ratios of F1
and F2 offspring recessive traits will accurately be reflected. Females do not mate for
about 8-10 hours after hatching and can be obtained and placed into separate vials.
Enough flies for groups of 2 or 3 to have 10-20 virgin mutants and 10-20 wild males must
be reared. To maintain an ongoing stock, subculture your flies every 10-14 days.
Virgin Collecting Methods
Removal: remove all flies from the vial, after 8-10 hours collect all females present in the
original vial and place in a fresh vial and wait 2-3 days to ensure no larvae are present.
(Females tend to eclose early in the morning.)
Visual: virgin females are much larger than older females and are lightly pigmented, a
dark green spot may be visible un the underside of the abdomen (their most recent meal).
Temperature cycling (not tried by this author): cultures at 18°C slow development and the
female will not mate until 16 hours after eclosure. Removing flies in the
afternoon/evening and placing the vials in an 18°C incubator produces about 98%
Make equipment available for students in a dedicated location: students will need a
place where they can get supplies and do their work at their convenience when they need
to as their schedules allow. You will need to provide a morgue for spent flies which can
be a bottle with mineral oil or alcohol. You can use water if you dispose of them daily.
except for anaesthesia: put anaesthesia into a dropper bottle/s and provide it only when
it is to be used by the students. It can potentially be “huffed” and therefore needs to be
controlled by the instructor.
What to do with spent tubes: if plastic tubes are used it is best to dispose of them after
they are used because of the contagious nature of mites and fungi. Plastic can be
autoclaved (20 minutes and 121°C and 15 psi) or washed in a 10% bleach solution,
however both methods make the tubes opaque, which makes it difficult to see into the
tube. Tubes can be placed in the freezer to kill flies and thrown away. If they are glass
dispose of the flies and media, rinse and autoclave or bleach.
Although flies can tolerate 25°C (77°F), that is sort of a high end for them, and 20°C (68°F)
is the lower end. I set my incubator at 22°C to be safe, sometimes the inside of the tube
may be slighter warmer than the incubator from the fermentation of the medium. Lower
temperatures prolong the life cycle, higher temperatures increase sterility and reduce
viability. When getting your incubator to temp. keep in mind that if it’s digital it can take
several hours to stabilize. Flies should not be kept in direct sunlight.
This author also learned that using rubber bungs is most definitely not a good idea. While
it ensures that no flies will escape, it does ensure suffocation, which luckily did not
happen, but the epiphany did wake me up in the middle of the night.
Fly Wrangling 101 How to Subculture and Breed Your Flies
• Develop fly handling skills and culture techniques
• Apply computational methods for analyzing data
• Reinforce student understanding of Mendelian genetics
• Drosophila food medium
• Lg. glass cuvettes
• Clipboard and task/date/name sheet
• Lab Notebook for each group
• Sterile cotton
• Horsehair brushes
• Filter paper (should be the appropriate size to fit inside a Petri dish, as well as
strips for anaesthesia) or white index cards
• Dissecting scope
• Petri dishes (also preferably glass)
• Anesthesia (there are several brands readily available in catalogs)
• Nets for tubes (or filter paper)
• Incubator for holding constant temperature if possible
1. Prepare two culture tubes for your crosses. Make sure that your label includes:
• the generation, e.g. P for parents (this will be your first generation that you’ve
placed into your new tubes), F1, F2, etc. for subsequent offspring.
• the date
• the type of mating in the cross
2. The amount of media used depends on the culture tube. In a standard tube use about
10 mls of dry media and equal parts water. If you’re using a glass cuvette use 5 mls of
media and equal parts water. You will want the media to remain at the bottom of the
vial, avoid chunks of media on the sides of the tube. Simply pour the water into the tube,
give it a few minutes to soak into the media. If the media is still dry you may add a bit
more water, (the larvae prefer the media on the wet side, rather than too dry).
3. Put a piece of filter paper in your Petri dish, and tape a strip of filter paper to the inside
of the lid. (In case your flies wake-up before you’re done with them you can put a drop of
anaesthesia on the paper taped to the lid.)
4. Obtain vials of parental flies from your teacher.
5. Record the vial number and parental cross marked on the vial in your notebook and
start your datasheets. When working with your flies have your notebook and your
datasheets with you.
6. Put a couple of drops of Fly Nap on the cotton at the bottom of the sleep box. (A
cotton swab can also be inserted in the tube with the flies instead of using a sleep box).
Open the sleep box and put your fly tubes in the box, put the lid on the box, open the lid
on with as little an opening as possible and using forceps, take the cotton swabs out of
your parent tubes. It is important to keep your tubes on their sides as much as possible
when handling flies that are asleep. If not the flies will fall into the wet medium, adhere
to the medium and drown.
When the flies STOP MOVING (usually ~ 2 min.) they are sufficiently anaesthetized, they
will die if left in the anaesthesia too long, (when the wings stand out at an angle, the flies
are dead). Gently dump the flies into the viewing dish and observe and record the
phenotypes and sexes of the flies (it is difficult to look for banding in newly hatched flies
as the pigments are not well developed). IF YOUR FLIES START WAKING UP PUT A COUPLE
OF DROPS OF ANAESTHESIA ON THE FILTER PAPER TAPED TO THE LID OF A PETRI DISH
AND COVER YOUR FLIES. In your journal describe eye color, number and size of wings, or
any unusual placement of body structures.
7. Place a five or six wild males and a five or six mutant females into each of your culture
tubes, keeping your tubes on their sides using your paintbrush, and put your tubes into
8. After seven days remove the parent flies from the mating bottle by tapping them into
the sleep box and anesthetizing them until dead. Put them into a Petri and look at them
under the dissecting scope, in your notebook draw (feel free to use colored pencils) a
male, a female and a mutant, label the drawing (wild or mutant, male and female). Also,
label the parts of the body (insects have a head, a thorax and an abdomen). When you
are finished with your drawing discard flies into the morgue and place tubes back in the
incubator. Record what you did and the date in your notebook.
9. When the flies begin to emerge, examine them and record the characteristics. This is
the F1 generation. If the mutation is recessive, none of the F1 should exhibit the mutation.
If any do, one of the P females was not a virgin and the culture should not be used in the
rest of the experiment. Go back to step 1.
10. Prepare two or three new culture bottles, (properly labeled). Place 5-6 F1 males and
females into two or three culture bottles and place in the incubator.
After 7 days euthanize the F1 flies and discard them.
When the F2 generation eclose euthanize them and record phenotypes
Before turning in your journal make sure it contains: a drawing and description of wild
male, female, and mutant flies, and a drawing of the life cycle of Drosophila. At the end of
your journal, pose at least three questions you would like to investigate.
Female on the left has an elongated posterior with thinner pigment bands, male on the
right, the abdomen of the male has a black tip and a more round posterior
Male on the left, (note the sex combs on the forelegs) female on the right
1. Antennepedia (that means legs on yer noggin, or legheadedness) it’s a _ mutation,
Here’s the homeodomain antennepedia protein
2. and the last one on the right, Apterous (missing wings, oops), with some other
1. About 7 days after starting cross, remove parents to prevent breeding between
generations and to insure data collection from one generation only.
2. Data collection from an experimental cross is begun the day after the progeny first
emerge. Usually flies are phenotyped and counted every other day for about 8 days to
insure inclusion of mutants and the sex with slower developmental rates (females often
appear sooner than males).
Genetic Notation Used in Describing Crosses
A fly with red eyes and other normal traits is called wild type and is designated by a +.
The + refers here to all the traits (the entire phenotype). However, a + can also refer to an
A fly with a heritable trait different from wild type is considered a mutant. Mutations at
particular loci are designated by letters derived from the descriptive name of the
mutation. Abbreviations for recessive mutations are written entirely in lower case letters,
whereas abbreviations for dominant mutations begin with capital letters. For our flies, we
will use the symbols +,+ for the wild fly to indicate that wild alleles are dominant and a,a
for the apterous fly indicating that the apterous allele genotype is recessive.
(During the initial stages of an inheritance study when the dominance relationships of
alleles are unknown, the problem of deciding how to abbreviate the name for the
mutation can be avoided by using a combination of letters and superscripts to designate a
particular allele. For example, a mutant autosomal trait can be denoted as Am, while its
wildtype counterpart can be denoted as A+. Similarly, an X-linked trait can be denoted as
Xm for the mutant allele, and X+ for the wild type allele.)
Make a prediction about the genotypes and phenotypes of your P, F1 and F2 generations
assuming the mutation is recessive.
Make a prediction about the genotypes and phenotypes of your P, F1 and F2 generations
assuming the mutation is dominant.
Date Number of Males and Number of Females and
Name/s of team member/s doing the cross today:______________________
Date Number of Phenotype 1 Number of Phenotype 2
Name/s team member/s doing the cross today:______________________
Date Number of Phenotype 1 Number of Phenotype 2
Name/s team member/s doing the cross today:______________________
The Hardy-Weinberg equation will allow you to estimate the approximate percentages
and gene frequencies of homozygous dominant, heterozygous and recessive genotypes
of your flies.
The equation is p2 + 2pq + q2, where p2 will represent the homozygous dominant
genotype, q2 will represent the recessive genotype and 2pq will represent the
Here’s an example of how your will use the equation:
Total fly population- 278
Number of wilds- 190 (these show the dominant phenotype)
Number of mutants- 88 (the recessive phenotype)
The percent of each :
Dominant – (p2 + 2pq ) 190/278 x 100% = 68.35%, as a frequency .6835
Recessive- (q2 ) 88/278 x 100% = 31.66%, as a frequency .3166, q = .563
In order to find the frequency of heterozygotes we have to find p.
p = 1-q, p = 1 - .563 = .437
p2 = .191
2pq = 2(.437)(.563)
To estimate the number of homozygous flies, multiply the frequency of p2 by the total
278(.191) = 53.09, or 53
the estimated number of heterozygous individuals, multiply the frequency of 2pq by the
278(.492) = 136.8, or 137
find the expected number of recessives by multiplying the total population by .25
278 x .25 = 69.5
Now that you know the observed and expected we can use something called a Chi-square,
which will let us evaluate the dataset.
The chi-square test is used in two similar but distinct circumstances:
a. for estimating how closely an observed distribution matches an expected
distribution - we'll refer to this as the goodness-of-fit test
b. for estimating whether two random variables are independent.
Χ2 = ∑ (observed x frequency – expected x frequency)2
expected x frequency
The funny x looking thing is just the Greek letter “chi.” The expected is other Greek letter,
sigma, which in statistics means “sum.”
Lastly, to determine the significance level we need to know the quot;degrees of freedom.quot; In
the case of the chi-square goodness-of-fit test, the number of degrees of freedom is equal
to the number of terms used in calculating chi-square minus one. There were two terms in
the chi-square for this problem - therefore, the number of degrees of freedom is one.
df P = 0.05 P = 0.01 P = 0.001
1 3.84 6.64 10.83
2 5.99 9.21 13.82
3 7.82 11.35 16.27
4 9.49 13.28 18.47
5 11.07 15.09 20.52
Report your statistical results in the Results section of your lab report.
• Research function and expression of human Hox genes.
Research of homeobox families and classes
• Evolution of homeobox genes
• Up-regulation and down-regulation of genes
• Virtual Apterous Lab
Glossary of Terms
imaginal disc: epithelial infoldings in the larvae of holometabolous insects (e.g.
Lepidoptera, Diptera) that rapidly develop into adult appendages (legs, antennae, wings
etc.) during metamorphosis from larval to adult form. During larval development, imaginal
discs grow inside the larva. Development of the adult from the imaginal disc entails
complex signaling interactions that divide the disc into distinct anterior, posterior, dorsal,
and ventral compartments. At metamorphosis, the larva forms a pupa, inside which the
larval tissues are reabsorbed and the imaginal tissues undergo extensive morphogenetic
movements to form adult structures.
homeotic genes: in general homeotics are thought of as genetic switches that control the
choice between different developmental pathways, also known as Hox genes, specifying
the anterior-posterior axis and segment identity during early development of metazoan
organisms. They are critical for the proper placement and number of embryonic segment
structures (such as legs, antennae and eyes). The first genes found to encode
homeodomain proteins were Drosophila developmental control genes, in particular
homeotic genes, from which the name quot;homeoquot;box was derived. However, many
homeobox genes are not homeotic genes; the homeobox is a sequence motif (a
nucleotide or amino-acid sequence pattern that is widespread and has, or is conjectured
to have, a biological significance), while quot;homeoticquot; is a functional description for genes
that cause homeotic transformations.quot;
homeobox: a fragment of DNA of about 180 basepairs (not counting introns), found in
homeobox genes. A homeobox is a DNA sequence found within genes that are involved in
the regulation of patterns of development (morphogenesis) in animals, fungi and plants.
Genes that have a homeobox are called homeobox genes and form the homeobox gene
family. Homeobox genes encode transcription factors which typically switch on cascades
of other genes.
LIM-homeobox genes: The primary structure of LIM-homeobox genes has been
remarkably conserved through evolution. A host of new data has been derived from
mutational analysis in diverse organisms, such as nematodes, flies and vertebrates. These
studies have revealed a prominent involvement of LIM-homeodomain proteins in tissue
patterning and differentiation, and their function in neural patterning is evident in all
organisms studied to date. LIM genes act in a variety of developmental contexts, and
display functional similarities across all organisms studied All LIM genes have expression
and function in the nervous system (but some act elsewhere too). LIM genes determine
correct axonal arrangements: sensory, motor or inter neurons. LIM genes may share
overlapping functions in distinct cell types, might regulate common sets of downstream
target genes But some LIM genes have quite specific roles: mec-3 regulates touch-
neuron-specific genes (C. elegans),
apterous: wingless, a LIM-homeodomain protein that is expressed in dorsal cells and acts
as a selector gene to divide the disc into dorsal and ventral compartments
homeodomain: in eukaryotes, homeodomains induce cellular differentiation by initiating
the cascades of coregulated genes required to produce individual tissues and organs. The
DNA-binding domain, binds DNA in a specific manner, is usually about 60 amino acids in
length, and is encoded by the homeobox. The homeodomain fold is a protein structural
domain that binds DNA or RNA and is thus commonly found in transcription factors. Most
of the time, homeodomain proteins act in the promoter region of their target genes as
complexes with other transcription factors, often also homeodomain proteins. The fold
consists of a 60-amino acid helix-turn-helix structure in which three alpha helices are
connected by short loop regions . The N-terminal two helices are antiparallel and the
longer C-terminal helix is roughly perpendicular to the axes established by the first two. It
is this third helix that interacts directly with DNA. Homeodomain folds are found
exclusively in eukaryotes but have high homology to lambda phage proteins that alter the
expression of genes in prokaryotes.
Hox genes: Hox genes are a subgroup of homeobox genes. In vertebrates these genes are
found in gene clusters on the chromosomes. In mammals four such clusters exist, called
Hox clusters. The gene name quot;Hoxquot; has been restricted to name Hox cluster genes in
vertebrates. Only genes in the HOX cluster should be named Hox genes. So note:
homeobox genes are NOT Hox genes, Hox genes are a subset of homeobox genes.
Hox cluster: The term Hox cluster refers to a group of clustered homeobox genes, named
Hox genes in vertebrates, that play important roles in pattern formation along the
anterior-posterior body axis. In fact, the first homeobox genes discovered where those of
the Drosophila homeotic gene clusters, i.e. the quot;Antennapedia complexquot; and the
quot;Bithorax complexquot;, which summarily are referred to as HOM-C (homeotic complex). This
HOM-C complex in Drosophila is the evolutionary homolog of the vertebrate Hox clusters
and the evolutionarily related homeobox gene clusters in other animals (i.e. chordates,
insects, nematodes, etc.) are now also called HOX clusters.
Photos of flies http://biol.org/DrosPics.htm
Culturing and life cycle, Pete Geiger, The Biology Project
Antennapedia Interactive Fly http://www.sdbonline.org/fly/segment/antenap3.htm
Apterous Virtual Fly Lab http://bioweb.wku.edu/courses/Biol114/Vfly1.asp
Apterous Homeodomain, Marco Milán, et al, European Molecular Biology Laboratory,
Homeobox Database Homepage maintained by Thomas R. Bürglin
Homeobox Database Drosophila main page, homeobox by family
Other homeobox information from http://faculty.pnc.edu/pwilkin/homeobox.html
Antennapedia Homeobox http://homeodb.cbi.pku.edu.cn/family_info.php?
Hox Genes Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology Rice University
Journal of Biological Chemistry http://www.jbc.org/cgi/reprint/M312842200v1.pdf
Developmental Regulatory Networks http://www.wwnorton.com/college/biology/devbio/
Human-Fly genes that are shared A Survey of Human Disease Gene Counterparts in the
Drosophila Genome, Mark E. Fortini, et al PMCID: PMC2180233 Fig 1. disease genes
shared Fig 2 Blast table, included in protocol
Autism and Hox http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/bioap475/Autism
Edward Lewis http://www.genetics.org/cgi/reprint/168/4/1773