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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Genetic basis of wing morphogenesis in Drosophila: sexual dimorphism and non-allometric effects of shape variation

Valeria P Carreira*, Ignacio M Soto, Julián Mensch and Juan J Fanara

Author Affiliations

Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución. Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales. Universidad de Buenos Aires. Ciudad Universitaria, Pabellón II (C1428 EHA) Buenos Aires. Argentina

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BMC Developmental Biology 2011, 11:32  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-11-32

Published: 2 June 2011



The Drosophila wing represents a particularly appropriate model to investigate the developmental control of phenotypic variation. Previous studies which aimed to identify candidate genes for wing morphology demonstrated that the genetic basis of wing shape variation in D. melanogaster is composed of numerous genetic factors causing small, additive effects. In this study, we analyzed wing shape in males and females from 191 lines of D. melanogaster, homozygous for a single P-element insertion, using geometric morphometrics techniques. The analysis allowed us to identify known and novel candidate genes that may contribute to the expression of wing shape in each sex separately and to compare them to candidate genes affecting wing size which have been identified previously using the same lines.


Our results indicate that more than 63% of induced mutations affected wing shape in one or both sexes, although only 33% showed significant differences in both males and females. The joint analysis of wing size and shape revealed that only 19% of the P-element insertions caused coincident effects on both components of wing form in one or both sexes. Further morphometrical analyses revealed that the intersection between veins showed the smallest displacements in the proximal region of the wing. Finally, we observed that mutations causing general deformations were more common than expected in both sexes whereas the opposite occurred with those generating local changes. For most of the 94 candidate genes identified, this seems to be the first record relating them with wing shape variation.


Our results support the idea that the genetic architecture of wing shape is complex with many different genes contributing to the trait in a sexually dimorphic manner. This polygenic basis, which is relatively independent from that of wing size, is composed of genes generally involved in development and/or metabolic functions, especially related to the regulation of different cellular processes such as motility, adhesion, communication and signal transduction. This study suggests that understanding the genetic basis of wing shape requires merging the regulation of vein patterning by signalling pathways with processes that occur during wing development at the cellular level.