We characterized the embryonic expression pattern and mutant phenotypes of the Drosophila gene argos, which encodes a secreted protein with an epidermal growth factor motif. The argos null mutation caused an increase in chordotonal (Ch) organs in both the thoracic and the abdominal segments, whereas overexpression of the argos gene resulted in a decrease in these organs. We showed that the argos transcripts are expressed transiently in the cells surrounding the Ch organ precursor and that the gene rhomboid (rho), which is involved in the regulation of the number of Ch organs, acts epistatically to argos in this event. Our findings suggest that argos plays a role in Ch organ precursor formation and regulates the final number of Ch organs.
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