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Genetics. 1998 May;149(1):217-31.

Genes expressed in the ring gland, the major endocrine organ of Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Developmental Biology Center, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-2275, USA.


We have used an enhancer-trap approach to begin characterizing the function of the Drosophila endocrine system during larval development. Five hundred and ten different lethal PZ element insertions were screened to identify those in which a reporter gene within the P element showed strong expression in part or all of the ring gland, the major site of production and release of developmental hormones, and which had a mutant phenotype consistent with an endocrine defect. Nine strong candidate genes were identified in this screen, and eight of these are expressed in the lateral cells of the ring gland that produce ecdysteroid molting hormone (EC). We have confirmed that the genes detected by these enhancer traps are expressed in patterns similar to those detected by the reporter gene. Two of the genes encode proteins, protein kinase A and calmodulin, that have previously been implicated in the signaling pathway leading to EC synthesis and release in other insects. A third gene product, the translational elongation factor EF-1alpha F1, could play a role in the translational regulation of EC production. The screen also identified the genes couch potato and tramtrack, previously known from their roles in peripheral nervous system development, as being expressed in the ring gland. One enhancer trap revealed expression of the gene encoding the C subunit of vacuolar ATPase (V-ATPase) in the medial cells of the ring gland, which produce the juvenile hormone that controls progression through developmental stages. This could reveal a function of V-ATPase in the response of this part of the ring gland to adenotropic neuropeptides. However, the gene identified by this enhancer trap is ubiquitously expressed, suggesting that the enhancer trap is detecting only a subset of its control elements. The results show that the enhancer trap approach can be a productive way of exploring tissue-specific genetic functions in Drosophila.

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