Indexed on: 15 Jun '05Published on: 15 Jun '05Published in: BioEssays
In many bilaterian phyla, appendages are morphological traits that characterise the identity of the various body parts. In pterygote insects, wings are dorsal appendages on the thorax. The famous "bithorax" fly created by Ed Lewis is the emblematic example of the role of Hox genes.1 Now, Tomoyasu et al.,2 using classical genetics, transgenesis and RNAi, have examined the function of thoracic Hox genes in the beetle Tribolium castaneum. Beetles have rigid elytra in place of the first pair of wings. Instead of the expected transformation of the elytron into a wing, loss of Hox genes' function leads to the homeotic transformation of the second pair of dorsal appendages, the wings, into elytra. This has important consequences for the way that we see the role of Hox genes in development and evolution.