Co-option of a coordinate system defined by the EGFr and Dpp pathways in the evolution of a morphological novelty
Morphological innovation is an elusive and fascinating concept in evolutionary biology. A novel structure may open up an array of possibilities for adaptation, and thus is fundamental to the evolution of complex multicellular life. We use the respiratory appendages on the dorsal-anterior side of the Drosophila eggshell as a model system for morphological novelty. To study the co-option of genetic pathways in the evolution of this novelty we have compared oogenesis and eggshell patterning in
... ophila melanogaster with Ceratitis capitata, a dipteran whose eggs do not bear dorsal appendages. Results: During the final stages of oogenesis, the appendages are formed by specific groups of cells in the follicular epithelium of the egg chamber. These cells are defined via signaling activity of the Dpp and EGFr pathways, and we find that both pathways are active in C. capitata oogenesis. The transcription factor gene mirror is expressed downstream of EGFr activation in a dorsolateral domain in the D. melanogaster egg chamber, but could not be detected during C. capitata oogenesis. In D. melanogaster, Mirror regulates the expression of two important genes: broad, which defines the appendage primordia, and pipe, involved in embryonic dorsoventral polarity. In C. capitata, broad remains expressed ubiquitously throughout the follicular epithelium, and is not restricted to the appendage primordia. Interestingly pipe expression did not differ between the two species. Conclusions: Our analysis identifies both broad and mirror as important nodes that have been redeployed in the Drosophila egg chamber patterning network in the evolution of a morphologically novel feature. Further, our results show how pre-existing signals can provide an epithelium with a spatial coordinate system, which can be co-opted for novel patterns.