Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Developmental Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Expression of pair rule gene orthologs in the blastoderm of a myriapod: evidence for pair rule-like mechanisms?

Ralf Janssen1*, Wim G M Damen2 and Graham E Budd1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Villavägen 16, 752 36, Uppsala, Sweden

2 Department of Genetics, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Philosophenweg 12, 07743, Jena, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Developmental Biology 2012, 12:15  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-12-15

Published: 17 May 2012



A hallmark of Drosophila segmentation is the stepwise subdivision of the body into smaller and smaller units, and finally into the segments. This is achieved by the function of the well-understood segmentation gene cascade. The first molecular sign of a segmented body appears with the action of the pair rule genes, which are expressed as transversal stripes in alternating segments. Drosophila development, however, is derived, and in most other arthropods only the anterior body is patterned (almost) simultaneously from a pre-existing field of cells; posterior segments are added sequentially from a posterior segment addition zone. A long-standing question is to what extent segmentation mechanisms known from Drosophila may be conserved in short-germ arthropods. Despite the derived developmental modes, it appears more likely that conserved mechanisms can be found in anterior patterning.


Expression analysis of pair rule gene orthologs in the blastoderm of the pill millipede Glomeris marginata (Myriapoda: Diplopoda) suggests that these genes are generally involved in segmenting the anterior embryo. We find that the Glomeris pairberry-1 ( pby-1) gene is expressed in a pair rule pattern that is also found in insects and a chelicerate, the mite Tetraynchus urticae. Other Glomeris pair rule gene orthologs are expressed in double segment wide domains in the blastoderm, which at subsequent stages split into two stripes in adjacent segments.


The expression patterns of the millipede pair rule gene orthologs resemble pair rule patterning in Drosophila and other insects, and thus represent evidence for the presence of an ancestral pair rule-like mechanism in myriapods. We discuss the possibilities that blastoderm patterning may be conserved in long-germ and short-germ arthropods, and that a posterior double segmental mechanism may be present in short-germ arthropods.

Evolution; Pair rule patterning; Segmentation; Paired; Even-skipped; Runt; Hairy; Odd-paired; Sloppy-paired; Odd-skipped