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Dev Biol. 2011 Mar 1;351(1):99-109. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.12.039. Epub 2011 Jan 4.

Spatial regulation of cell adhesion in the Drosophila wing is mediated by Delilah, a potent activator of βPS integrin expression.

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Department of Genetics and the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 31096, Israel.


In spite of our conceptual view of how differential gene expression is used to define different cell identities, we still do not understand how different cell identities are translated into actual cell properties. The example discussed here is that of the fly wing, which is composed of two main cell types: vein and intervein cells. These two cell types differ in many features, including their adhesive properties. One of the major differences is that intervein cells express integrins, which are required for the attachment of the two wing layers to each other, whereas vein cells are devoid of integrin expression. The major signaling pathways that divide the wing to vein and intervein domains have been characterized. However, the genetic programs that execute these two alternative differentiation programs are still very roughly drawn. Here we identify the bHLH protein Delilah (Dei) as a mediator between signaling pathways that specify intervein cell-fate and one of the most significant realizators of this fate, βPS integrin. Dei's expression is restricted to intervein territories where it acts as a potent activator of βPS integrin expression. In the absence of normal Dei activity the level of βPS integrin is reduced, leading to a failure of adhesion between the dorsal and ventral wing layers and a consequent formation of wing blisters. The effect of Dei on βPS expression is not restricted to the wing, suggesting that Dei functions as a general genetic switch, which is turned on wherever a sticky cell-identity is determined and integrin-based adhesion is required.

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