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Dev Cell. 2004 Nov;7(5):687-96.

EGF receptor signaling triggers recruitment of Drosophila sense organ precursors by stimulating proneural gene autoregulation.

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Division of Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Neuroscience Research, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9XD, United Kingdom.


In Drosophila, commitment of a cell to a sense organ precursor (SOP) fate requires bHLH proneural transcription factor upregulation, a process that depends in most cases on the interplay of proneural gene autoregulation and inhibitory Notch signaling. A subset of SOPs are selected by a recruitment pathway involving EGFR signaling to ectodermal cells expressing the proneural gene atonal. We show that EGFR signaling drives recruitment by directly facilitating atonal autoregulation. Pointed, the transcription factor that mediates EGFR signaling, and Atonal protein itself bind cooperatively to adjacent conserved binding sites in an atonal enhancer. Recruitment is therefore contingent on the combined presence of Atonal protein (providing competence) and EGFR signaling (triggering recruitment). Thus, autoregulation is the nodal control point targeted by signaling. This exemplifies a simple and general mechanism for regulating the transition from competence to cell fate commitment whereby a cell signal directly targets the autoregulation of a selector gene.

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