Dynamic Rewiring of the Drosophila Retinal Determination Network Switches Its Function from Selector to Differentiation

Mardelle Atkins, Yuwei Jiang, Leticia Sansores-Garcia, Barbara Jusiak, Georg Halder, Graeme Mardon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Organ development is directed by selector gene networks. Eye development in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is driven by the highly conserved selector gene network referred to as the "retinal determination gene network," composed of approximately 20 factors, whose core comprises twin of eyeless (toy), eyeless (ey), sine oculis (so), dachshund (dac), and eyes absent (eya). These genes encode transcriptional regulators that are each necessary for normal eye development, and sufficient to direct ectopic eye development when misexpressed. While it is well documented that the downstream genes so, eya, and dac are necessary not only during early growth and determination stages but also during the differentiation phase of retinal development, it remains unknown how the retinal determination gene network terminates its functions in determination and begins to promote differentiation. Here, we identify a switch in the regulation of ey by the downstream retinal determination genes, which is essential for the transition from determination to differentiation. We found that central to the transition is a switch from positive regulation of ey transcription to negative regulation and that both types of regulation require so. Our results suggest a model in which the retinal determination gene network is rewired to end the growth and determination stage of eye development and trigger terminal differentiation. We conclude that changes in the regulatory relationships among members of the retinal determination gene network are a driving force for key transitions in retinal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003731
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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