During gastrulation, the Drosophila mesoderm invaginates and forms a single cell layer in close juxtaposition to the overlying ectoderm. Subsequently, particular cell types within the mesoderm are specified along the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes. The exact developmental pathways that guide the specification of different cell types within the mesoderm are not well understood. We have analyzed the developmental relationship between two mesodermal tissues in the Drosophila embryo, the gonadal mesoderm and the fat body. Both tissues arise from lateral mesoderm within the eve domain. Whereas in the eve domain of parasegments 10–12 gonadal mesoderm develops from dorsolateral mesoderm and fat body from ventrolateral mesoderm, in parasegments 4–9 only fat body is specified. Our results demonstrate that the cell fate decision between gonadal mesoderm and fat body identity within dorsolateral mesoderm along the anteroposterior axis is determined by the combined actions of genes including abdA, AbdB and srp; while srp promotes fat body development, abdA allows gonadal mesoderm to develop by repressing srp function. Furthermore, we present evidence from genetic analysis suggesting that, before stage 10 of embryogenesis, gonadal mesoderm and the fat body have not yet been specified as different cell types, but exist as a common pool of precursor cells requiring the functions of the tin, zfh-1 and cli genes for their development.

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