Pyramus and thisbe: FGF genes that pattern the mesoderm of Drosophila embryos

Angelike Stathopoulos, Bergin Tam, Matthew Ronshaugen, Manfred Frasch, Michael Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


The Heartless (Htl) FGF receptor is required for the differentiation of a variety of mesodermal tissues in the Drosophila embryo, yet its ligand is not known. Here we identify two new FGF genes, thisbe (ths) and pyramus (pyr), which probably encode the elusive ligands for this receptor. The two genes exhibit dynamic patterns of expression in epithelial tissues adjacent to Htl-expressing mesoderm derivatives, including the neurogenic ectoderm, stomadeum, and hindgut. Embryos that lack ths+ and pyr+ exhibit defects related to those seen in htl mutants, including delayed mesodermal migration during gastrulation and a loss of cardiac tissues and hindgut musculature. The misexpression of Ths in wild-type and mutant embryos suggests that FGF signaling is required for both cell migration and the transcriptional induction of cardiac gene expression. The characterization of htl and ths regulatory DNAs indicates that high levels of the maternal Dorsal gradient directly activate htl expression, whereas low levels activate ths. It is therefore possible to describe FGF signaling and other aspects of gastrulation as a direct manifestation of discrete threshold readouts of the Dorsal gradient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-699
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


  • Dorsal
  • Drosophila embryo
  • FGF
  • Heartless receptor
  • Pyramus
  • Thisbe


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