hunchback (hb) is a key regulatory gene in the early segmentation gene hierarchy of Drosophila. It codes for a transcription factor of the Cys2-His2 zinc finger type and shows two separate zinc finger domains in its coding region. hb forms a morphogenetic gradient in the middle of the embryo that is required for setting the spatial boundaries of several target genes. We have analyzed the molecular lesions found in the different hb alleles and have studied the differential effects of these alleles on a number of such target genes. We find that in mutants in which the HB protein lacks a functional second finger domain, the regulation of the target genes Krüppel (Kr) and knirps (kni) is differentially affected. While this domain is required for the correct regulation of Kr, it is not necessary for the repression of kni. Furthermore, mutations affecting this domain lead to a decreased protein stability. The integration of the expression pattern of target genes was found to be distorted in a second class of mutants between the two finger domains which lead to gain of function or neomorphic phenotypes. The effects of these mutations were studied in detail and it was found that they fall into two classes, the first one interfering with the function of the maternal hb product, the second leading to a delayed segmentation. The function of the latter class appears to be linked to the secondary expression of hb in the parasegment 4 (PS4) stripe at blastoderm stage.
- Copyright © 1994 by the Genetics Society of America