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Arthropod Struct Dev. 2006 Dec;35(4):357-78.

Ancient mechanisms of visual sense organ development based on comparison of the gene networks controlling larval eye, ocellus, and compound eye specification in Drosophila.

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, Wayne State University, 5047 Gullen Mall, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Key mechanisms of development are strongly constrained, and hence often shared in the formation of highly diversified homologous organs. This diagnostic is applied to uncovering ancient gene activities in the control of visual sense organ development by comparing the gene networks, which regulate larval eye, ocellus and compound eye specification in Drosophila. The comparison reveals a suite of shared aspects that are likely to predate the diversification of arthropod visual sense organs and, consistent with this, have notable similarities in the developing vertebrate visual system: (I) Pax-6 genes participate in the patterning of primordia of complex visual organs. (II) Primordium determination and differentiation depends on formation of a transcription factor complex that contains the products of the selector genes Eyes absent and Sine oculis. (III) The TGF-beta signaling factor Decapentaplegic exerts transcriptional activation of eyes absent and sine oculis. (IV) Canonical Wnt signaling contributes to primordium patterning by repression of eyes absent and sine oculis. (V) Initiation of determination and differentiation is controlled by hedgehog signaling. (VI) Egfr signaling drives retinal cell fate specification. (VII) The proneural transcription factor atonal regulates photoreceptor specification. (VII) The zinc finger gene glass regulates photoreceptor specification and differentiation.

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