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Curr Biol. 2000 Jul 27-Aug 10;10(15):943-6.

split ends, a new component of the Drosophila EGF receptor pathway, regulates development of midline glial cells.

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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02142, USA.


Signaling by DER, the Drosophila epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK), is essential for proper migration and survival of midline glial cells (MGCs) in the embryonic central nervous system (CNS) [1-4]. We recently isolated a gene called split ends (spen) in a screen designed to identify new components of the RTK/Ras pathway [5]. Drosophila Spen and its orthologs are characterized by a distinct set of RNA recognition motifs (RRMs) and a SPOC domain, a highly conserved carboxy-terminal domain of unknown function [5-7]. To investigate spen function in the context of RTK signaling, we examined the consequences of spen loss-of-function mutations on embryonic CNS development. We found that spen was required for normal migration and survival of MGCs and that embryos lacking spen had CNS defects strikingly reminiscent of those seen in mutants of several known components of the DER signaling pathway. In addition, spen interacted synergistically with the RTK effector pointed. Using MGC-targeted expression, we found that increased Ras signaling rescued the lethality associated with expression of a dominant-negative spen transgene. Therefore, spen encodes a positively acting component of the DER/Ras signaling pathway.

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