Allocation and specification of the genital disc precursor cells in Drosophila

Elizabeth H. Chen, Audrey E. Christiansen, Bruce S. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The adult structures of Drosophila melanogaster are derived from larval imaginal discs, which originate as clusters of cells within the embryonic ectoderm. The genital imaginal disc is composed of three primordia (female genital, male genital, and anal primordia) that originate from the embryonic tail segments A8, A9, and A10, respectively, and produce the sexually dimorphic genitalia and analia. We show that the genital disc precursor cells (GDPCs) are first detectable during mid-embryogenesis as a 22-cell cluster in the ventral epidermis. Analysis of mutant and double mutant phenotypes of embryonic patterning genes in the GDPCs, together with their expression patterns in these cells, revealed the following with respect to the origins and specification of the GDPCs. The allocation of the GDPCs from the ventral epidermis requires the function of ventral patterning genes, including the EGF receptor and the spitz group of genes. The ventral localization of the GDPCs is further restricted by the action of dorsal patterning genes. Along the anterior-posterior axis, several segment polarity genes (wingless, engrailed, hedgehog, and patched) are required for the proper allocation of the GDPCs. These segment polarity genes are expressed in some, but not all of the GDPCs, indicating that anterior and posterior compartments are not fully established in the GDPCs. In addition, we found that the three primordia of the larval genital disc have already been specified in the GDPCs by the coordinated actions of the homeotic (Hox) genes, abdominal-A, Abdominal-B, and caudal. By identifying how these different patterning networks regulate the allocation and primordial organization of the 22 embryonic precursors of the compound genital disc, we demonstrate that at least some of the organization of the larval disc originates as positional information in the embryo, thus providing a context for further studies on the development of the genital disc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-285
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 15 2005


  • Anterior/posterior patterning
  • Dorsal/ventral patterning
  • Genital disc precursor cells
  • Homeotic genes
  • Imaginal disc progenitor
  • Primordia
  • Segment polarity genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology


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