The genetic control of embryonic organization is far better understood for the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster than for any other metazoan. A gene hierarchy acts during oogenesis and embryogenesis to regulate the establishment of segmentation along the anterior-posterior axis, and homeotic selector genes define developmental commitments within each parasegmental unit delineated. One of the most intensively studied Drosophila segmentation genes is fushi tarazu (ftz), a pair-rule gene expressed in stripes that is important for the establishment of the parasegmental boundaries. Although ftz is flanked by homeotic selector genes conserved throughout the metazoa, there is no evidence that it was part of the ancestral homeotic complex, and it has been unclear when the gene arose and acquired a role in segmentation. We show here that the beetle Tribolium castaneum has a ftz homolog located in its Homeotic complex and expressed in a pair-rule fashion, albeit in a register differing from that of the fly gene. These and other observations demonstrate that a ftz gene preexisted the radiation of holometabolous insects and suggest that it has a role in beetle embryogenesis which differs somewhat from that described in flies
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