Significant progress has been made towards understanding how pattern formation occurs in the imaginal discs that give rise to the limbs of Drosophila melanogaster. Here, we examine the process of regional specification that occurs in the eye-antennal discs, which form the head of the adult fruitfly. We demonstrate genetically that there is a graded requirement for the activity of the orthodenticle homeobox gene in forming specific structures of the developing head. Consistent with this result, we show that OTD protein is expressed in a graded fashion across the disc primordia of these structures and that different threshold levels of OTD are required for the formation of specific subdomains of the head. Finally, we provide evidence suggesting that otd acts through the segment polarity gene engrailed to specify medial head development.

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