Establishment of neuronal connectivity during development of theDrosophila larval visual system
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We used confocal microscopy in conjunction with specific antibodies and enhancer trap strains to investigate the development of specific neuronal connections in a simple model system, the larval visual system of Drosophila. We find that the establishment of axonal projections from the larval photoreceptor neurons to their central nervous system targets involves a series of discrete steps. During embryogenesis, the larval optic nerve contacts several different cell types, including optic lobe pioneer (OLP) neurons and a number of glial cells. We demonstrate that OLP neurons are present and project normally in glass (gl) mutant embryos in which the larval optic nerve fails to develop, suggesting that they do not depend on interactions with the larval optic nerve for differentiation and proper axonal projection. The OLPs fail to differentiate properly is disconnected (disco) mutant embryos, where appropriate connections between the larval optic nerve and its targets in the brain are not formed. The disco gene is expressed in the OLPs and may therefore act autonomously to direct the differentiation of these cells. Taken together, our results suggest that the OLPs act as an intermediate target required for the establishment of normal optic nerve projection and connectivity.
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