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Neural Dev. 2007 Nov 5;2:23.

A procephalic territory in Drosophila exhibiting similarities and dissimilarities compared to the vertebrate midbrain/hindbrain boundary region.

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Institute of Genetics, University of Mainz, Johannes-Joachim Becherweg 32, Mainz, Germany, D-55128.



In vertebrates, the primordium of the brain is subdivided by the expression of Otx genes (forebrain/anterior midbrain), Hox genes (posterior hindbrain), and the genes Pax2, Pax5 and Pax8 (intervening region). The latter includes the midbrain/hindbrain boundary (MHB), which acts as a key organizer during brain patterning. Recent studies in Drosophila revealed that orthologous sets of genes are expressed in a similar tripartite pattern in the late embryonic brain, which suggested correspondence between the Drosophila deutocerebral/tritocerebral boundary region and the vertebrate MHB. To gain more insight into the evolution of brain regions, and particularly the MHB, I examined the expression of a comprehensive array of MHB-specific gene orthologs in the procephalic neuroectoderm and in individually identified neuroblasts during early embryonic stages 8-11, at which the segmental organization of the brain is most clearly displayed.


I show that the early embryonic brain exhibits an anterior Otx/otd domain and a posterior Hox1/lab domain, but that Pax2/5/8 orthologs are not expressed in the neuroectoderm and neuroblasts of the intervening territory. Furthermore, the expression domains of Otx/otd and Gbx/unpg exhibit a small common interface within the anterior deutocerebrum. In contrast to vertebrates, Fgf8-related genes are not expressed posterior to the otd/unpg interface. However, at the otd/unpg interface the early expression of other MHB-specific genes (including btd, wg, en), and of dorsoventral patterning genes, closely resembles the situation at the vertebrate MHB. Altogether, these results suggest the existence of an ancestral territory within the primordium of the deutocerebrum and adjacent protocerebrum, which might be the evolutionary equivalent of the region of the vertebrate MHB. However, lack of expression of Pax2/5/8 and Fgf8-related genes, and significant differences in the expression onset of other key regulators at the otd/unpg interface, imply that genetic interactions crucial for the vertebrate organizer activity are absent in the early embryonic brain of Drosophila.

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