Empty spiracles is required for the development of olfactory projection neuron circuitry in Drosophila

Robert Lichtneckert, Lionel Nobs, Heinrich Reichert
Development 2008, 135 (14): 2415-24
In both insects and mammals, second-order olfactory neurons receive input from olfactory receptor neurons and relay olfactory input to higher brain centers. In Drosophila, the wiring specificity of these olfactory projection neurons (PNs) is predetermined by their lineage identity and birth order. However, the genetic programs that control this wiring specificity are not well understood. The cephalic gap gene empty spiracles (ems) encodes a homeodomain transcription factor required for embryonic development of the antennal brain neuromere. Here we show that ems is expressed postembryonically in the progenitors of the two major olfactory PN lineages. Moreover, we show that ems has cell lineage-specific functions in postembryonic PN development. Thus, in the lateral PN lineage, transient ems expression is essential for development of the correct number of PNs; in ems mutants, the number of PNs in the lineage is dramatically reduced by apoptosis. By contrast, in the anterodorsal PN lineage, transient ems expression is necessary for precise targeting of PN dendrites to appropriate glomeruli; in ems mutants, these PNs fail to innervate correct glomeruli, innervate inappropriate glomeruli, or mistarget dendrites to other brain regions. Furthermore, in the anterodorsal PN lineage, ems controls the expression of the POU-domain transcription factor Acj6 in approximately half of the cells and, in at least one glomerulus, ems function in dendritic targeting is mediated through Acj6. The finding that Drosophila ems, like its murine homologs Emx1/2, is required for the formation of olfactory circuitry implies that conserved genetic programs control olfactory system development in insects and mammals.

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