The somatic muscles, the heart, the fat body, the somatic part of the gonad and most of the visceral muscles are derived from a series of segmentally repeated primordia in the Drosophila mesoderm. This work describes the early development of the fat body and its relationship to the gonadal mesoderm, as well as the genetic control of the development of these tissues. Segmentation and dorsoventral patterning genes define three regions in each parasegment in which fat body precursors can develop. Fat body progenitors in these regions are specified by different genetic pathways. Two regions require engrailed and hedgehog for their development while the third is controlled by wingless. decapentaplegic and one or more unknown genes determine the dorsoventral extent of these regions. In each of parasegments 10–12 one of these regions generates somatic gonadal precursors instead of fat body. The balance between fat body and somatic gonadal fate in these serially homologous cell clusters is controlled by at least five genes. We suggest a model in which tinman, engrailed and wingless are necessary to permit somatic gonadal develoment, while serpent counteracts the effects of these genes and promotes fat body development. The homeotic gene abdominalA limits the region of serpent activity by interfering in a mutually repressive feed back loop between gonadal and fat body development.
In vertebrates, transcriptional regulators of the GATA family appear to have a conserved function in differentiation and organ development. GATA-1, −2 and −3 are required for different aspects of hematopoiesis, while GATA-4, −5 and −6 are expressed in various organs of endodermal origin, such as intestine and liver, and are implicated in endodermal differentiation. Here we report that the Drosophila gene serpent (srp) encodes the previously described GATA factor ABF. The multiple functions of srp in Drosophila suggest that it is an ortholog of the entire vertebrate Gata family. srp is required for the differentiation and morphogenesis of the endodermal gut. Here we show that it is also essential for Drosophila hematopoiesis and for the formation of the fat body, the insect organ analogous to the liver. These findings imply that some aspects of the molecular mechanisms underlying blood cell development as well as endodermal differentiation are early acquisitions of metazoan evolution and may be common to most higher animals.