Homothorax switches function of Drosophila photoreceptors from color to polarized light sensors

Mathias F. Wernet, Thomas Labhart, Franziska Baumann, Esteban O. Mazzoni, Franck Pichaud, Claude Desplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Different classes of photoreceptors (PRs) allow animals to perceive various types of visual information. In the Drosophila eye, the outer PRs of each ommatidium are involved in motion detection while the inner PRs mediate color vision. In addition, flies use a specialized class of inner PRs in the "dorsal rim area" of the eye (DRA) to detect the e-vector of polarized light, allowing them to exploit skylight polarization for orientation. We show that homothorax is both necessary and sufficient for inner PRs to adopt the polarization-sensitive DRA fate instead of the color-sensitive default state. Homothorax increases rhabdomere size and uncouples R7-R8 communication to allow both cells to express the same opsin rather than different ones as required for color vision. Homothorax expression is induced by the iroquois complex and the wingless (wg) pathway. However, crucial wg pathway components are not required, suggesting that additional signals are involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 31 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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