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Unexpected role of Hunchback in retinal glia cell development

Posted by , on 24 January 2018

In our recently published work, we applied dynamic genome wide expression profiling of eye-antennal imaginal discs of Drosophila melanogaster to reveal Hunchback as central factor in retinal glia cell development. Here is the abstract:

Drosophila melanogaster head development represents a valuable process to study the developmental control of various organs, such as the antennae, the dorsal ocelli and the compound eyes from a common precursor, the eye-antennal imaginal disc. While the gene regulatory network underlying compound eye development has been extensively studied, the key transcription factors regulating the formation of other head structures from the same imaginal disc are largely unknown. We obtained the developmental transcriptome of the eye-antennal discs covering late patterning processes at the late 2nd larval instar stage to the onset and progression of differentiation at the end of larval development. We revealed the expression profiles of all genes expressed during eye-antennal disc development and we determined temporally co-expressed genes by hierarchical clustering. Since co-expressed genes may be regulated by common transcriptional regulators, we combined our transcriptome dataset with publicly available ChIP-seq data to identify central transcription factors that co-regulate genes during head development. Besides the identification of already known and well-described transcription factors, we show that the transcription factor Hunchback (Hb) regulates a significant number of genes that are expressed during late differentiation stages. We confirm that hb is expressed in two polyploid subperineurial glia cells (carpet cells) and a thorough functional analysis shows that loss of Hb function results in a loss of carpet cells in the eye-antennal disc. As a consequence of missing carpet cells, we observed abnormal glia cell migration. Additionally, we provide for the first time functional data indicating that carpet cells are an integral part of the blood-brain barrier. Eventually, we combined our expression data with a de novo Hb motif search to reveal stage specific putative target genes of which we find a significant number indeed expressed in carpet cells.




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