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Development. 1998 Sep;125(18):3731-40.

Transcriptional regulation of atonal during development of the Drosophila peripheral nervous system.

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  • 1Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0725, USA.


atonal is a proneural gene for the development of Drosophila chordotonal organs and photoreceptor cells. We show here that atonal expression is controlled by modular enhancer elements located 5' or 3' to the atonal-coding sequences. During chordotonal organ development, the 3' enhancer directs expression in proneural clusters; whereas successive modular enhancers located in the 5' region drive tissue-specific expression in chordotonal organ precursors in the embryo and larval leg, wing and antennal imaginal discs. Similarly, in the eye disc, the 3' enhancer directs initial expression in a stripe anterior to the morphogenetic furrow. These atonal-expressing cells are then patterned through a Notch-dependent process into initial clusters, representing the earliest patterning event yet identified during eye morphogenesis. A distinct 5' enhancer drives expression in intermediate groups and R8 cells within and posterior to the morphogenetic furrow. Both enhancers are required for normal atonal function in the eye. The 5' enhancer, but not the 3' enhancer, depends on endogenous atonal function, suggesting a switch from regulation directed by other upstream genes to atonal autoregulation during the process of lateral inhibition. The regulatory regions identified in this study can thus account for atonal expression in every tissue and essentially in every stage of its expression during chordotonal organ and photoreceptor development.

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