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25.09.18 The optic lobe neuroepithelium generates neural stem cells over 60 hours earlier than previously thought

last modified Oct 17, 2018 05:17 PM
Hakes, Otsuki and Brand show that neuroepithelial cells in the Drosophila optic lobe produce previously unidentified neural stem cells during embryonic development

A newly discovered neural stem cell population is generated by the optic lobe neuroepithelium during embryogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster

Anna E. Hakes, Leo Otsuki, Andrea H. Brand (2018) Development 145: dev166207.  DOI:10.1242/dev.166207

Abstract from the paper

Neural stem cells must balance symmetric and asymmetric cell divisions to generate a functioning brain of the correct size. In both the developing Drosophila visual system and mammalian cerebral cortex, symmetrically dividing neuroepithelial cells transform gradually into asymmetrically dividing progenitors that generate neurons and glia. As a result, it has been widely accepted that stem cells in these tissues switch from a symmetric, expansive phase of cell divisions to a later neurogenic phase of cell divisions. In the Drosophila optic lobe, this switch is thought to occur during larval development.

However, we have found that neuroepithelial cells start to produce neuroblasts during embryonic development, demonstrating a much earlier role for neuroblasts in the developing visual system. These neuroblasts undergo neurogenic divisions, enter quiescence and are retained post-embryonically, together with neuroepithelial cells.

Later in development, neuroepithelial cells undergo further cell divisions before transforming into larval neuroblasts. Our results demonstrate that the optic lobe neuroepithelium gives rise to neurons and glia over 60 h earlier than was thought previously.


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