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Schomburg, Christoph; Turetzek, Natascha and Prpic, Nikola-Michael (2020): Candidate gene screen for potential interaction partners and regulatory targets of the Hox gene labial in the spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum. In: Development Genes and Evolution, Vol. 230, No. 2: pp. 105-120

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The Hox gene labial (lab) governs the formation of the tritocerebral head segment in insects and spiders. However, the morphology that results from lab action is very different in the two groups. In insects, the tritocerebral segment (intercalary segment) is reduced and lacks appendages, whereas in spiders the corresponding segment (pedipalpal segment) is a proper segment including a pair of appendages (pedipalps). It is likely that this difference between lab action in insects and spiders is mediated by regulatory targets or interacting partners of lab. However, only a few such genes are known in insects and none in spiders. We have conducted a candidate gene screen in the spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum using as candidates Drosophila melanogaster genes known to (potentially) interact with lab or to be expressed in the intercalary segment. We have studied 75 P. tepidariorum genes (including previously published and duplicated genes). Only 3 of these (proboscipedia-A (pb-A) and two paralogs of extradenticle (exd)) showed differential expression between leg and pedipalp. The low success rate points to a weakness of the candidate gene approach when it is applied to lineage specific organs. The spider pedipalp has no counterpart in insects, and therefore relying on insect data apparently cannot identify larger numbers of factors implicated in its specification and formation. We argue that in these cases a de novo approach to gene discovery might be superior to the candidate gene approach.

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