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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jun 7;108(23):9673-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1106386108. Epub 2011 May 23.

Enhancer-driven membrane markers for analysis of nonautonomous mechanisms reveal neuron-glia interactions in Drosophila.

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0725, USA.


Extrinsic factors and the interactions of neurons with surrounding tissues are essential for almost every aspect of neuronal development. Here we describe a strategy of gene expression with an independent enhancer-driven cellular marker (GEEM) for studying roles of cell-cell interactions and extrinsic factors in the development of the Drosophila nervous system. Key to this strategy is robust expression of enhancer-driven transgenic markers in specific neurons. To this end, we have created vectors to achieve bright and even labeling of neuronal processes, easy cloning of enhancer elements, and efficient and flexible generation of transgenic animals. We provide examples of enhancer-driven membrane markers for specific neurons in both the peripheral and central nervous systems and their applications in the study of neuronal projections and connections in the Drosophila brain. We further applied GEEM to examine the wrapping of sensory neuron somas by glia during embryonic and larval stages, and neuron-glia interaction during dendrite pruning in live animals, leading to the discovery that glia play critical roles in the severing and degradation of proximal dendrites. The GEEM paradigm should be applicable to the studies of both cell-autonomous and nonautonomous regulations of any cell type.

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