Antibodies that specifically recognize proteins encoded by the homeotic genes: Sex combs reduced, Deformed, labial and proboscipedia, were used to follow the distribution of these gene products during embryogenesis. The position of engrailed-expressing cells was used as a reference and staining conditions were established that could distinguish, among cells expressing engrailed, one of the homeotic proteins or both. Our observations demonstrate two important facts about establishing identity in the head segments. First, in contrast to the overlapping pattern of homeotic gene expression in the trunk segments, we observe a non-overlapping pattern in the head for those homeotic proteins required during embryogenesis. In contrast, the spatial accumulation of the protein product of the non-vital proboscipedia locus overlaps partially with the distribution of the Deformed and Sex combs reduced proteins in the maxillary and labial segments, respectively. Second, two of the proteins, Sex combs reduced and Deformed, have different dorsal and ventral patterns of accumulation. Dorsally, these proteins are expressed in segmental domains while, within the ventral region, a parasegmental register is observed. The boundary where this change in pattern occurs coincides with the junction between the ventral neurogenic region and the dorsal epidermis. After contraction of the germ band, when the nerve cord has completely separated from the epidermis, the parasegmental pattern is observed only within the ventral nerve cord while a segmental register is maintained throughout the epidermis.

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