Appendages are external projections of the body that serve the animal for locomotion, feeding, or environment exploration. The appendages of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
are derived from the imaginal discs, epithelial sac-like structures specified in the embryo that grow and pattern during larva development. In the last decades, genetic and developmental studies in the fruit fly have provided extensive knowledge regarding the mechanisms that direct the formation of the appendages. Importantly, many of the signaling pathways and patterning genes identified and characterized in Drosophila
have similar functions during vertebrate appendage development. In this review, we will summarize the genetic and molecular mechanisms that lead to the specification of appendage primordia in the embryo and their posterior patterning during imaginal disc development. The identification of the regulatory logic underlying appendage specification in Drosophila
suggests that the evolutionary origin of the insect wing is, in part, related to the development of ventral appendages.
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