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Decoding the molecular clock that controls neurogenesis in the visual center of Drosophila

April 1, 2022
Opa and Ey transcription factors in drosophila tissues

The top figure shows the sequential expression of a series of TTFs which instruct the Drosophila medulla neuroblasts to generate different neural types. The bottom panel shows the immunostaining of two TTFs: Opa in red and Ey in green. As medulla neuroblasts age, they transition from expressing Opa, then Ey, and then both Opa and Ey (yellow). In the clones where Lola is knocked out, the transitions slow down. Image credit: Li Lab

The nervous system is made up of diverse cells that arise from progenitors in a specific time-dependent pattern. In a new study, published in Nature Communications, researchers have uncovered the molecular players involved and how the timing is controlled.

The generation of neural diversity by neural progenitors, called neuroblasts, is regulated in two distinct ways: spatially, where neuroblasts at different locations make different neuron types, and temporally, by which the same neuroblasts generate different neuron types as they age.

“We are focused on the temporal patterning of neuroblasts, and we use the Drosophila medulla, which is a part of the visual processing center, as a model” said Xin Li (GNDP), an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology.

The Li group, in collaboration with Sihai Dave Zhao (GNDP), an associate professor of statistics, used single-cell RNA sequencing technology to examine how gene expression changes as medulla neuroblasts age.