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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The differentiation of the serotonergic neurons in the Drosophila ventral nerve cord depends on the combined function of the zinc finger proteins Eagle and Huckebein.

The Drosophila ventral nerve cord (vNC) derives from a stereotyped population of neural stem cells, neuroblasts (NBs), each of which gives rise to a characteristic cell lineage. The mechanisms leading to the specification and differentiation of these lineages are largely unknown. Here we analyse mechanisms leading to cell differentiation within the NB 7-3 lineage. Analogous to the grasshopper, NB 7-3 is the progenitor of the Drosophila vNC serotonergic neurons. The zinc finger protein Eagle (Eg) is expressed in NB 7-3 just after delamination and is present in all NB 7-3 progeny until late stage 17. DiI cell lineage tracing and immunocytochemistry reveal that eg is required for normal pathfinding of interneuronal projections and for restricting the cell number in the thoracic NB 7-3 lineage. Moreover, eg is required for serotonin expression. Ectopic expression of Eg protein forces specific additional CNS cells to enter the serotonergic differentiation pathway. Like NB 7-3, the progenitor(s) of these ectopic cells express Huckebein (Hkb), another zinc finger protein. However, their progenitors do not express engrailed (en) as opposed to the NB 7-3 lineage, where en acts upstream of eg. We conclude that eg and hkb act in concert to determine serotonergic cell fate, while en is more distantly involved in this process by activating eg expression. Thus, we provide the first functional evidence for a combinatorial code of transcription factors acting early but downstream of segment polarity genes to specify a unique neuronal cell fate.[1]


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