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Bioessays. 1999 Apr;21(4):275-85.

Genetics of epithelial polarity and pattern in the Drosophila retina.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322-3030, USA.


This review is focused on recent advances in our understanding of the development of coordinated cell polarity, through experiments on the Drosophila compound eye. Each eye facet (or "ommatidium") contains a set of eight photoreceptor cells, placed so that their rhabdomeres form an asymmetric trapezoid. The array of ommatidia is organized so that these trapezoids are aligned in two mirror-image fields, dorsal and ventral to the eye midline (or "equator"). The development of this pattern depends on two systems of positional information that inform the cluster of cells that will form an ommatidium of anterior/posterior (a/p) and dorsal/ventral (d/v) direction. The former (a/p) is encoded by a progressive wave of development (the morphogenetic furrow). The latter (d/v) involves molecules known to act in tissue polarity in other organs and organisms. Our understanding of the function of these molecules rests not only on their mutant phenotypes, biochemistry, and expression patterns, but also on the spatial effects when mutant patches of cells are made (genetic mosaics).

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