Commissure formation in the embryonic CNS of Drosophila

February 1999
Hummel T
Schimmelpfeng K
Klämbt C

Most of the neurons of the ventral nerve cord send out long projecting axons which cross the midline. In the Drosophila central nervous system (CNS) cells of the midline give rise to neuronal and glial lineages with different functions during the establishment of the commissural pattern. Here we present evidence that beside the previously known NETRIN/FRAZZLED (DCC) signalling system an additional attractive system(s) is operating in the developing embryonic nervous system of Drosophila. Attractive cues appear to be provided by the midline neurons. We show that the glial cells present repulsive signals to the previously described ROUNDABOUT receptor in addition to a permissive contact-dependent signal helping commissural growth cones across the midline. A novel repulsive component is encoded by the karussell gene. Furthermore the midline glial cells separate anterior and posterior commissures. By genetic criteria we demonstrate that some of the genes we have identified are acting in the midline glia whereas other genes are required in the midline neurons. The results lead to a detailed model relating different cellular functions to axonal patterning at the midline.