The larval epidermis of Drosophila shows a stereotyped segmentally repeating pattern of cuticular structures. Mutants deficient for the wingless gene product show highly disrupted patterning of the larval cuticle. We have manipulated expression of the wg gene product to assess its role in this patterning process. We present evidence for four distinct phases of wg function in epidermal cells: (1) an early requirement in engrailed-expressing cells to establish and maintain stable expression of en, (2) a discrete period when wg and en gene products act in concert to generate positional values in the anterior portion of the ventral segment and all values of the dorsal and lateral epidermis, (3) a progressive function (dependent on prior interaction with the en-expressing cells) in conferring positional values to cells within the posterior portion of the segment, and (4) a late continuous requirement for maintaining some ventral positional values.

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