Our laboratory is composed of
scientists carrying out academic
research on the development and
evolution of the patterns of sensory bristles in insects.
We aim to understand the genetic control of the spatial organisation of bristle patterns in insects. On the notum of Drosophila there is a stereotyped array of eleven large sensory bristles. Sensory bristle development requires the activity of the achaete-scute genes whose products are bHLH-type transcription factors the expression of which confers neural potential to cells. The bristle pattern arises as the result of achaete-scute expression in clusters of cells at the site of each future bristle. These genes share cis-regulatory controlling sequences, called enhancers, that respond to local positional cues and regulate the complex spatial and temporal expression patterns of these genes. Two upstream activators, Pannier and Iroquois, bind to the enhancer sequences and regulate achaete-scute expression.
There are many thousands of species of Diptera, however, and many of these have bristle patterns that differ from Drosophila but are equally stereotyped. The question therefore arises as to how all of these different patterns are made and to what extent the basic genetic mechanisms described in Drosophila have been conserved. To study this we are using molecular and genetic approaches to study the conservation of the structure and function of achaete-scute homologues and their upstream regulators in a number of species of Diptera.
2009 University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology
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Last update March 2010, Jean-Valery Turatsinze