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Development. 1992 Dec;116(4):1203-20.

The function of the neurogenic genes during epithelial development in the Drosophila embryo.

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Department of Biology, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


The complex embryonic phenotype of the six neurogenic mutations Notch, mastermind, big brain, Delta, Enhancer of split and neuralized was analyzed by using different antibodies and PlacZ markers, which allowed us to label most of the known embryonic tissues. Our results demonstrate that all of the neurogenic mutants show abnormalities in many different organs derived from all three germ layers. Defects caused by the neurogenic mutations in ectodermally derived tissues fell into two categories. First, all cell types that delaminate from the ectoderm (neuroblasts, sensory neurons, peripheral glia cells and oenocytes) are increased in number. Secondly, ectodermal tissues that in the wild type form epithelial structures lose their epithelial phenotype and dissociate (optic lobe, stomatogastric nervous system) or show significant differentiative abnormalities (trachea, Malpighian tubules and salivary gland). Abnormalities in tissues derived from the mesoderm were observed in all six neurogenic mutations. Most importantly, somatic myoblasts do not fuse and/or form an aberrant muscle pattern. Cardioblasts (which form the embryonic heart) are increased in number and show differentiative abnormalities; other mesodermal cell types (fat body, pericardial cells) are significantly decreased. The development of the endoderm (midgut rudiments) is disrupted in most of the neurogenic mutations (Notch, Delta, Enhancer of split and neuralized) during at least two stages. Defects occur as early as during gastrulation when the invaginating midgut rudiments prematurely lose their epithelial characteristics. Later, the transition of the midgut rudiments to form the midgut epithelium does not occur. In addition, the number of adult midgut precursor cells that segregate from the midgut rudiments is strongly increased. We propose that, at least in the ectodermally and endodermally derived tissues, neurogenic gene function is primarily involved in interactions among cells that need to acquire or to maintain an epithelial phenotype.

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