The Evolution of Gene Regulatory Networks that Define Arthropod Body Plans

Tzach Auman, Ariel D. Chipman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Our understanding of the genetics of arthropod body plan development originally stems from work on Drosophila melanogaster from the late 1970s and onward. In Drosophila, there is a relatively detailed model for the network of gene interactions that proceeds in a sequential-hierarchical fashion to define the main features of the body plan. Over the years, we have a growing understanding of the networks involved in defining the body plan in an increasing number of arthropod species. It is now becoming possible to tease out the conserved aspects of these networks and to try to reconstruct their evolution. In this contribution, we focus on several key nodes of these networks, starting from early patterning in which the main axes are determined and the broad morphological domains of the embryo are defined, and on to later stage wherein the growth zone network is active in sequential addition of posterior segments. The pattern of conservation of networks is very patchy, with some key aspects being highly conserved in all arthropods and others being very labile. Many aspects of early axis patterning are highly conserved, as are some aspects of sequential segment generation. In contrast, regional patterning varies among different taxa, and some networks, such as the terminal patterning network, are only found in a limited range of taxa. The growth zone segmentation network is ancient and is probably plesiomorphic to all arthropods. In some insects, it has undergone significant modification to give rise to a more hardwired network that generates individual segments separately. In other insects and in most arthropods, the sequential segmentation network has undergone a significant amount of systems drift, wherein many of the genes have changed. However, it maintains a conserved underlying logic and function.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)523-532
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved. For permissions please email:


Dive into the research topics of 'The Evolution of Gene Regulatory Networks that Define Arthropod Body Plans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this