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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
Decapentaplegic (dpp) regulates many aspects of imaginal disc growth and patterning in Drosophila. We have analyzed the phenotype of an eye-specific dpp allele, dppblk, which causes a reduction in the size of the retina due to a loss of ventral ommatidia. Prior to the onset of differentiation, dppblk eye discs are normal regarding size, shape, and ability to express dorsal and ventral markers. However, expression of a dpp-lacZ reporter is reduced at the ventral margin. Additional dorsoventral asymmetry appears during retinal differentiation: the morphogenetic furrow (MF) initiates normally at the posterior tip of the disc, but fails to propagate into the ventral epithelium. This defect can be rescued by increasing dpp expression along the ventral margin by local removal of patched function. We propose that the primary defect in dppblk is an inability to activate dpp expression properly at the ventral margin. This has two consequences: it prevents initiation from the ventral margin, and it renders the ventral epithelium unresponsive to differentiation signals emanating from the MF.