The scabrous gene encodes a secreted glycoprotein dimer and regulates proneural development in Drosophila eyes

E. Chiang Lee, Xiaoxi Hu, Sung Yun Yu, Nicholas E. Baker

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R8 photoreceptor cells play a primary role in the differentiation of Drosophila eyes. In scabrous (sca) mutants, the pattern of R8 photoreceptor differentiation is altered. The sca gene is predicted to encode a secreted protein related in part to fibrinogen and tenascins. Using expression in Drosophila Schneider cells, we showed that sca encoded a dimeric glycoprotein which was secreted and found in soluble form in the tissue culture medium. The sca protein contained both N- and O-linked carbohydrates and interacted with heparin. This Schneider cell protein was similar to protein detected in embryos. We showed that sca mutations, along with conditional alleles of Notch (N) and Delta (Dl), each affected the pattern of cells expressing atonal (ato), the proneural gene required for R8 differentiation. In normal development, about 1 cell in 20 differentiates into an R8 cell; in the others, ato is repressed. N and Dl were required to repress ato in the vicinity of R8 cells, whereas sca had effects over several cell diameters. Certain antibodies detected uptake of sea protein several cells away from its source. The overall growth factor-like structure of sca protein, its solubility, and its range of effects in vivo are consistent with a diffusible role that complements mechanisms involving direct cell contact. We propose that as the morphogenic furrow advances, cells secreting sca protein control the pattern of the next ommatidial column.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1188
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1996


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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