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PLoS Genet. 2018 Jan 11;14(1):e1007173. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007173. eCollection 2018 Jan.

Glass promotes the differentiation of neuronal and non-neuronal cell types in the Drosophila eye.

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Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine and Department of Cell Biology, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, United States of America.
Department of Cell Biology, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, United States of America.
Center of Molecular Medicine and Genomics and Department of Ophthalmology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, United States of America.


Transcriptional regulators can specify different cell types from a pool of equivalent progenitors by activating distinct developmental programs. The Glass transcription factor is expressed in all progenitors in the developing Drosophila eye, and is maintained in both neuronal and non-neuronal cell types. Glass is required for neuronal progenitors to differentiate as photoreceptors, but its role in non-neuronal cone and pigment cells is unknown. To determine whether Glass activity is limited to neuronal lineages, we compared the effects of misexpressing it in neuroblasts of the larval brain and in epithelial cells of the wing disc. Glass activated overlapping but distinct sets of genes in these neuronal and non-neuronal contexts, including markers of photoreceptors, cone cells and pigment cells. Coexpression of other transcription factors such as Pax2, Eyes absent, Lozenge and Escargot enabled Glass to induce additional genes characteristic of the non-neuronal cell types. Cell type-specific glass mutations generated in cone or pigment cells using somatic CRISPR revealed autonomous developmental defects, and expressing Glass specifically in these cells partially rescued glass mutant phenotypes. These results indicate that Glass is a determinant of organ identity that acts in both neuronal and non-neuronal cells to promote their differentiation into functional components of the eye.

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