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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2010;93:129-73. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385044-7.00005-9.

Building a fly eye: terminal differentiation events of the retina, corneal lens, and pigmented epithelia.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Division of Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.


In the past, vast differences in ocular structure, development, and physiology throughout the animal kingdom led to the widely accepted notion that eyes are polyphyletic, that is, they have independently arisen multiple times during evolution. Despite the dissimilarity between vertebrate and invertebrate eyes, it is becoming increasingly evident that the development of the eye in both groups shares more similarity at the genetic level than was previously assumed, forcing a reexamination of eye evolution. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of cell type specification during Drosophila eye development has been a focus of research for many labs over the past 25 years, and many of these findings are nicely reviewed in Chapters 1 and 4. A somewhat less explored area of research, however, considers how these cells, once specified, develop into functional ocular structures. This review aims to summarize the current knowledge related to the terminal differentiation events of the retina, corneal lens, and pigmented epithelia in the fly eye. In addition, we discuss emerging evidence that the different functional components of the fly eye share developmental pathways and functions with the vertebrate eye.

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