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Hormone-controlled changes in the differentiation state of post-mitotic neurons.|Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica


Hormone-controlled changes in the differentiation state of post-mitotic neurons.

While we think of neurons as having a fixed identity, many show spectacular plasticity. Metamorphosis drives massive changes in the fly brain; neurons that persist into adulthood often change in response to the steroid hormone ecdysone. Besides driving remodeling, ecdysone signaling can also alter the differentiation status of neurons.  The three sequentially born subtypes of mushroom body (MB) Kenyon cells (γ, followed by α’/β’, and finally α/β) serve as a model of temporal fating. γ neurons are also used as a model of remodeling during metamorphosis. As γ neurons are the only functional Kenyon cells in the larval brain, they serve the function of all three adult subtypes. Correspondingly, larval γ neurons have a similar morphology to α’/β’ and α/β neurons—their axons project dorsally and medially. During metamorphosis, γ neurons remodel to form a single medial projection. Both temporal fate changes and defects in remodeling therefore alter γ neuron morphology in similar ways.  Mamo, a BTB/POZ-zinc finger transcription factor critical for temporal specification of α’/β’ neurons, was recently described as essential for γ remodeling. In a previous study, we noticed a change in the number of adult Kenyon cells expressing γ-specific markers when mamo was manipulated. These data implied a role for Mamo in γ neuron fate specification, yet mamo is not expressed in γ neurons until pupariation, well past γ specification. This indicates that mamo has a later role in ensuring that γ neurons express the correct Kenyon cell subtype specific genes in the adult brain.