A functional homologue of goosecoid in Drosophila.
Goriely A., Stella M., Coffinier C., Kessler D., Mailhos C., Dessain S., Desplan C.
We have cloned a Drosophila homologue (D-gsc) of the vertebrate homeobox gene goosecoid (gsc). In the Gsc proteins, the pressure for conservation has been imposed on the homeodomain, the functional domain of the protein: sequence homology is limited to the homeodomain (78% identity) and to a short stretch of 7 aminoacids also found in other homeoproteins such as Engrailed. Despite this weak homology, D-gsc is able to mimic gsc function in a Xenopus assay, as shown by its ability to rescue the axis development of a UV-irradiated embryo. Moreover, our data suggest that the position of insect and vertebrate gsc homologues within a regulatory network has also been conserved: D-gsc expression is controlled by decapentaplegic, orthodenticle, sloppy-paired and tailless whose homologues control gsc expression (for BMP4 and Otx-2), or are expressed at the right time and the right place (for XFKH1/Pintallavis and Tlx) to be interacting with gsc during vertebrate development. However, the pattern of D-gsc expression in ectodermal cells of the nervous system and foregut cannot easily be reconciled with that of vertebrate gsc mesodermal expression, suggesting that its precise developmental function might have diverged. Still, this comparison of domains of expression and functions among Gsc proteins could shed light on a common origin of gut formation and/or on basic cellular processes. The identification of gsc target genes and/or other genes involved in similar developmental processes will allow the definition of the precise phylogenetic relationship among Gsc proteins.