European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.
Many genes known to be involved in embryogenesis and morphogenesis of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster encode proteins with a highly conserved region of 60 amino acids called the homeodomain. Mammalian counterparts for most of these genes have been identified, including those homologous to the Drosophila homeotic genes or to genes such as evenskipped, engrailed or caudal. We have isolated a murine homeobox gene that encodes a homeodomain similar to that encoded by the Drosophila Distalless (Dll) gene. Dll has a crucial role in Drosophila limb morphogenesis, partially specifying pattern along the proximo-distal axis of the limb. The murine counterpart is expressed in a restricted region of the developing brain, within the diencephalon and the adjacent telencephalic regions.