We describe an unusual Antennapedia class homeobox gene from the grasshopper Schistocerca gregaria (Orthoptera, African Plague Locust). Its sequence is not sufficiently similar to that of any other insect Hom-Hox gene to identify it unambiguously, but short conserved elements suggest a relationship to the segmentation gene fushi-tarazu, (ftz). We term it Sg Dax (divergent Antennapedia class homeobox gene). Antibodies raised against the protein encoded by this gene reveal two phases of expression during embryogenesis. In the early embryo, it is a marker for the posterior part of the forming embryonic primordium, and subsequently for the posterior part of the growing germ band. In older embryos, it labels a subset of neural precursor cells in each trunk segment, very similar to that defined by the expression of fushi tarazu (ftz) in Drosophila. We suggest that Schistocerca Dax and Drosophila ftz are homologous members of a gene family whose members are diverging relatively rapidly, both in terms of sequence and role in early development.

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