Using sequence homology to Drosophila homeobox-containing genes, we have cloned a homologue of abdominal-A from the locust Schistocerca gregaria. The Schistocerca clone encodes a stretch of 78 amino acids including the homeodomain and its flanking regions identical to the corresponding region of abdominal-A. We have shown by in situ hybridization that this gene is transcribed and have used an antibody raised against its protein product to examine the expression of abdominal-A during early Schistocerca embryogenesis. Schistocerca is a short germ insect. Although the segmented body plan is very similar to that of Drosophila, the segments are generated sequentially by a process of growth, not simultaneously by subdivision of a syncytial blastoderm. In both organisms, abdominal-A is expressed throughout the abdomen from a sharp anterior boundary located within the first abdominal segment (A1). The initial activation of the genes in the two species differs. Schistocerca initiates expression in a small group of cells in the anterior of A2, shortly after this segment is defined by the appearance of engrailed protein. This contrasts with the appearance of abdominal-A expression in Drosophila, which appears simultaneously throughout the entire abdomen.

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