Adult and larval photoreceptors use different mechanisms to specify the same Rhodopsin fates

Simon G. Sprecher, Franck Pichaud, Claude Desplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although development of the adult Drosophila compound eye is very well understood, little is known about development of photoreceptors (PRs) in the simple larval eye. We show here that the larval eye is composed of 12 PRs, four of which express blue-sensitive rhodopsin5 (rh5) while the other eight contain green-sensitive rh6. This is similar to the 30:70 ratio of adult blue and green R8 cells. However, the stochastic choice of adult color PRs and the bistable loop of the warts and melted tumor suppressor genes that unambiguously specify rh5 and rh6 in R8 PRs are not involved in specification of larval PRs. Instead, primary PR precursors signal via EGFR to surrounding tissue to develop as secondary precursors, which will become Rh6-expressing PRs. EGFR signaling is required for the survival of the Rh6 subtype. Primary precursors give rise to the Rh5 subtype. Furthermore, the combinatorial action of the transcription factors Spalt, Seven-up, and Orthodenticle specifies the two PR subtypes. Therefore, even though the larval PRs and adult R8 PRs express the same rhodopsins (rh5 and rh6), they use very distinct mechanisms for their specification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2182-2195
Number of pages14
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007


  • Drosophila
  • EGFR signaling
  • Photoreceptor specification
  • Transcription factor interaction
  • Visual system development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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