Patterning the dorsal-ventral axis of the wasp Nasonia vitripennis
Lynch, Jeremy A.
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Regulatory networks composed of interacting genes are responsible for pattern formation and cell type specification in a wide variety of developmental contexts. Evolution must act on these regulatory networks in order to change the proportions, distribution, and characteristics of specified cells. Thus, understanding how these networks operate in homologous systems across multiple levels of phylogenetic divergence is critical for understanding the evolution of developmental systems. Among the most thoroughly characterized regulatory networks is the dorsal-ventral patterning system of the fly Drosophila melanogaster. Due to the thorough understanding of this system, it is an ideal starting point for comparative analyses. Here we report an analysis of the DV patterning system of the wasp, Nasonia vitripennis. This wasp undergoes a mode of long germ embryogenesis that is superficially nearly identical to that of Drosophila, but one that was likely independently derived. We have found that while the expression of genes just prior to the onset of gastrulation is almost identical in Nasonia and Drosophila, both the upstream network responsible for generating this pattern, and the downstream morphogenetic movements that it sets in motion, are significantly diverged. From this we conclude that many network structures are available to evolution to achieve particular developmental ends.