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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 29;108(48):19389-94. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1109843108. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Different levels of the Tripartite motif protein, Anomalies in sensory axon patterning (Asap), regulate distinct axonal projections of Drosophila sensory neurons.

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Department of Cell Biology, Osaka Bioscience Institute, Suita, Osaka 565-0874, Japan.


The axonal projection pattern of sensory neurons typically is regulated by environmental signals, but how different sensory afferents can establish distinct projections in the same environment remains largely unknown. Drosophila class IV dendrite arborization (C4da) sensory neurons project subtype-specific axonal branches in the ventral nerve cord, and we show that the Tripartite motif protein, Anomalies in sensory axon patterning (Asap) is a critical determinant of the axonal projection patterns of different C4da neurons. Asap is highly expressed in C4da neurons with both ipsilateral and contralateral axonal projections, but the Asap level is low in neurons that have only ipsilateral projections. Mutations in asap cause a specific loss of contralateral projections, whereas overexpression of Asap induces ectopic contralateral projections in C4da neurons. We also show by biochemical and genetic analysis that Asap regulates Netrin signaling, at least in part by linking the Netrin receptor Frazzled to the downstream effector Pico. In the absence of Asap, the sensory afferent connectivity within the ventral nerve cord is disrupted, resulting in specific larval behavioral deficits. These results indicate that different levels of Asap determine distinct patterns of axonal projections of C4da neurons by modulating Netrin signaling and that the Asap-mediated axonal projection is critical for assembly of a functional sensory circuit.

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