The arrangement of bristles on a leg segment of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster was studied in various mutants that have abnormal numbers of bristles on this segment. Eighteen mutations at six different genetic loci were analyzed, plus five double or triple mutant combinations. Recessive mutations at the achaete-scute locus were found to affect distinct groups of bristles:achaete mutations remove mechanosensory bristles, whereas scute mutations remove mainly chemosensory bristles. Mechanosensory bristles remain uniformly spaced along the longitudinal axis unless their number decreases below a certain threshold, suggesting that spacing is controlled by cell interactions that cannot function when bristle cells are too far apart. Above a certain threshold, bristle spacing and alignment both become irregular, perhaps due to excessive force from these same interactions. Chemosensory bristles occupy definite positions that are virtually unaffected by removal of individual bristles from the array. Extra chemosensory bristles develop only near the six normal sites. At two of the six sites the multiple bristles tend to exhibit uniform longitudinal spacing - a property confined to mechanosensory bristles in wild-type flies. To explain the various mutant phenotypes the following scheme is proposed, with different mutations directly or indirectly affecting each step: (1) spots and stripes are demarcated within the pattern area, (2) one bristle cell normally arises within each spot, multiple bristle cells within each stripe, (3) incipient bristle cells inhibit neighboring cells from becoming bristle cells, and (4) the bristle cells within each stripe become aligned to form rows and then repel one another to generate uniform spacing.
- Pattern formation
- achaete-scute complex