Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Biology Institute. University of California, Los Angeles, CA USA
Drosophila eye development provides an excellent model system to study the role of inter-cellular signaling in the specification of unique cell fates. Behavioral screens by Benzer and his colleagues led to the identification of a gene, Sevenless, a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) receptor, required for the specification of the UV sensitive R7 cell. Genetic analysis further showed that the Ras/Raf/MAPK pathway function downstream of Sevenless in the specification of R7 fate. Signaling mediated by another RTK, EGFR and Notch have also been shown to function in either an antagonistic or a synergistic manner in the specification of cell fate during eye development. In some instances, these pathways are linked in a sequential manner by the regulation of the expression of Notch ligand, Delta by EGFR, while in others, these pathways function in a combinatorial fashion on enhancer elements to control target gene expression. In this review, we highlight the elegant genetic strategies used by several laboratories in early elucidation of the Sevenless pathway which helped link the RTK receptor to the Ras/Raf/MAPK cascade and discuss how EGFR and Notch signaling pathways are used in a reiterative manner and by combining in different modes, generate sufficient diversity required for the specification of unique cell fates.