The imaginal disk expression of the TGF-beta superfamily member DPP in a narrow stripe of cells along the anterior-posterior compartment boundary is essential for proper growth and patterning of the Drosophila appendages. We examine DPP receptor function to understand how this localized DPP expression produces its global effects upon appendage development. Clones of saxophone (sax) or thick veins (tkv) mutant cells, defective in one of the two type I receptors for DPP, show shifts in cell fate along the anterior-posterior axis. In the adult wing, clones that are homozygous for a null allele of sax or a hypomorphic allele of tkv show shifts to more anterior fates when the clone is in the anterior compartment and to more posterior fates when the clone is in the posterior compartment. The effect of these clones upon the expression pattern of the downstream gene spalt-major also correlates with these specific shifts in cell fate. The similar effects of sax null and tkv hypomorphic clones indicate that the primary difference in the function of these two receptors during wing patterning is that TKV transmits more of the DPP signal than does SAX. Our results are consistent with a model in which a gradient of DPP reaches all cells in the developing wing blade to direct anterior-posterior pattern.

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