The embryonic organization of the genital disc studied in genetic mosaics of Drosophila melanogaster

Trudi Schüpbach, Eric Wieschaus, Rolf Nöthiger

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The embryonic organization of the sexually dimorphic genital disc was studied in genetic mosaics resulting (a) from early loss of a chromosome or (b) from mitotic recombination. (a) Early Loss of a Chromosome. Three types of mosaics were produced - purely female mosaics, purely male mosaics, and gynandromorphs. They show that the genital disc arises from a group of cells in the ventral region of the embryo somewhat larger than that giving rise to a single foreleg (Table 2). Within this group of cells three regions can be distinguished that are present in both sexes: an anterior, a medial, and a posterior one, with distances of only 3-4 sturts between adjacent regions. The anterior region gives rise to the female genitalia, the medial region to the male genitalia, and the posterior region forms the analia of both sexes and the parovaria of the female (Figs. 2 and 3). The relative positions of the three regions were deduced from sturt distances (Tables 1 and 5), and from frequencies of mosaicism (Table 2). (b) Mitotic recombination was induced at the blastoderm stage in order to produce twin spots in the external genitalia and analia of purely male and female flies. Clone sizes indicate that these structures arise from a small number of precursor cells (Table 4). Clones overlapped right and left sides, but no clones were found extending over analia and genitalia. However, within either the analia or the genitalia of each sex, no clonal restrictions could be observed, and the clones comprised structures that were up to 12 sturts apart. A comparison of clone sizes and sturt distances in the foreleg and in the genital disc indicates that equal gynandromorph distances involve equal numbers of cells in different regions on the ellipsoid egg (Fig. 5). The results obtained from all mosaics provide a consistent picture of the embryonic organization of the genital disc. This becomes apparent in the summarized fate maps (Fig. 4), where the map derived from normal gynandromorphs can be produced by a simple superposition of the male and the female maps. The data are also discussed with respect to mechanisms of sexual differentiation in the genital disc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-270
Number of pages22
JournalWilhelm Roux's Archives of Developmental Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1978

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Biology


  • Cell lineage
  • Drosophila
  • Genital discs
  • Gynandromorphs
  • Sexual dimorphism


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