The Hunchback temporal transcription factor establishes, but is not required to maintain, early-born neuronal identity

Hirono, Keiko; Kohwi, Minoree; Clark, Matt Q.; Heckscher, Ellie S.; Doe, Chris Q.

Drosophila and mammalian neural progenitors typically generate a diverse family of neurons in a stereotyped order. Neuronal diversity can be generated by the sequential expression of temporal transcription factors. In Drosophila, neural progenitors (neuroblasts) sequentially express the temporal transcription factors Hunchback (Hb), Kruppel, Pdm, and Castor. Hb is necessary and sufficient to specify early-born neuronal identity in multiple lineages, and is maintained in the post-mitotic neurons produced during each neuroblast expression window. Surprisingly, nothing is currently known about whether Hb acts in neuroblasts or post-mitotic neurons (or both) to specify first-born neuronal identity.

Here we selectively remove Hb from post-mitotic neurons, and assay the well-characterized NB7-1 and NB1-1 lineages for defects in neuronal identity and function.

We find that loss of Hb from embryonic and larval post-mitotic neurons does not affect neuronal identity. Furthermore, removing Hb from post-mitotic neurons throughout the entire CNS has no effect on larval locomotor velocity, a sensitive assay for motor neuron and pre-motor neuron function.

We conclude that Hb functions in progenitors (neuroblasts/GMCs) to establish heritable neuronal identity that is maintained by a Hb-independent mechanism.
We suggest that Hb acts in neuroblasts to establish an epigenetic state that is permanently maintained in early-born neurons.


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Neural Development

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November 13, 2017