The developing central nervous system of many species expresses distinct segment-specific characteristics. We recently described the entire embryonic lineage of Drosophila neuroblast NB1-1 and showed that the composition of this lineage differs between the thoracic and abdominal tagmata with respect to the presence or absence of specific glial and neuronal components (Udolph, G., Prokop, A., Bossing, T. and Technau, G. M. (1993) Development 118, 765–775). Here, we demonstrate by heterotopic transplantations that tagma specificity of NB1-1 is determined in the neuroectoderm at the early gastrula stage (stage 7). Heterogenetic transplantation and mutant analysis show that the activity of the homeotic genes Ubx or abd-A is required for the expression of the abdominal variant of the lineage. Heat induction of Ubx or abd-A expression or their derepression in Polycomb mutant embryos can override thoracic determination several hours after gastrulation (stage 10/11). At that stage antibody stainings reveal both proteins to be present in NB1-1 during normal development. Possible mechanisms conferring the early tagma-specific determination are discussed.

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