Send to

Choose Destination
Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2014 May-Jun;43:11-8. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2014 Mar 13.

The Notch target E(spl)mδ is a muscle-specific gene involved in methylmercury toxicity in motor neuron development.

Author information

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, United States.
Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, 601 Elmwood Ave., Box EHSC, Rochester, NY 14622, United States.

Erratum in

  • Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2014 Nov-Dec;46:78.


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a ubiquitous environmental toxin that has a selective and potent impact on the nervous system, particularly during neural development yet, the mechanisms for its apparent neurodevelopmental specificity are unknown. The Notch receptor pathway has been implicated as a MeHg target in several studies. Notch signaling mediates cell-cell signals in a number of developmental contexts including neurogenesis and myogenesis, where it fundamentally acts to repress differentiation. Previous work in our lab has shown that MeHg causes preferential upregulation of a canonical Notch response gene, E(spl)mδ, in Drosophila embryos. In parallel, MeHg is seen to disrupt outgrowth of embryonic intersegmental motor nerves (ISN), which can be mimicked by expression of activated Notch in embryonic neurons. However, overexpression of E(spl)mδ in developing neurons fails to elicit motor neuron outgrowth defects, pointing to a non-autonomous role for E(spl)mδ in motor axon development. In this study we investigate a role for E(spl)mδ in conveying the toxicity of MeHg in the embryo. We find that endogenous expression of the E(spl)mδ gene localizes to developing somatic muscles in embryos. Notably, E(spl)mδ expression is seen in several muscles that are known synaptic targets for both the ISN and the segmental motor nerve (SN). We also demonstrate that the SN, similar to the ISN, exhibits disrupted axon outgrowth in response to MeHg. E(spl)mδ can induce a SN motor neuron phenotype, similar to MeHg treatment; but, only when E(spl)mδ expression is targeted to developing muscles. E(spl)mδ overexpression in developing muscles also results in aberrant muscle morphology, which is not apparent with expression of the closely related E(spl)mγ in developing muscles. Our data point to a role for the Notch target E(spl)mδ in mediating MeHg toxicity in embryonic development by disrupting the coordinated targeting of motor neurons to their muscle targets.


Drosophila embryo; Enhancer of split; Methylmercury; Motor neuron; Myogenesis; Notch

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center