Differentiation of the Drosophila eye imaginal disc is an asynchronous, repetitive process which proceeds across the disc from posterior to anterior. Its propagation correlates with the expression of decapentaplegic at the front of differentiation, in the morphogenetic furrow. Both differentiation and decapentaplegic expression are maintained by Hedgehog protein secreted by the differentiated cells posterior to the furrow. However, their initiation at the posterior margin occurs prior to hedgehog expression by an unknown mechanism. We show here that the wingless gene contributes to the correct spatial localization of initiation. Initiation of the morphogenetic furrow is restricted to the posterior margin by the presence of wingless at the lateral margins; removal of wingless allows lateral initiation. Ectopic expression of wingless at the posterior margin can also inhibit normal initiation. In addition, the presence of wingless in the center of the disc can prevent furrow progression. These effects of wingless are achieved without altering the expression of decapentaplegic.

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