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Tomlinson, A., Mavromatakis, Y.E., Arias, R. (2019). The role of Sevenless in Drosophila R7 photoreceptor specification.  Dev. Biol. 454(2): 181--189.
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Research paper

Sevenless (Sev) is a Receptor Tyrosine Kinase (RTK) that is required for the specification of the Drosophila R7 photoreceptor. Other Drosophila photoreceptors are specified by the action of another RTK; the Drosophila EGF Receptor (DER). Why Sev is required specifically in the R7 precursor, and the exact role it plays in the cell's fate assignment have long remained unclear. Notch (N) signaling plays many roles in R7 specification, one of which is to prevent DER activity from establishing the photoreceptor fate. Our current model of Sev function is that it hyperactivates the RTK pathway in the R7 precursor to overcome the N-imposed block on photoreceptor specification. From this perspective DER and Sev are viewed as engaging the same transduction machinery, the only difference between them being the level of pathway activation that they induce. To test this model, we generated a Sev/DER chimera in which the intracellular domain of Sev is replaced with that of DER. This chimerical receptor acts indistinguishably from Sev itself; a result that is entirely consistent with the two RTKs sharing identical transduction abilities. A long-standing question in regard to Sev is the function of a hydrophobic domain some 60 amino acids from the initiating Methionine. If this represents a transmembrane domain, it would endow Sev with N-terminal intracellular sequences through which it could engage internal transduction pathways. However, we find that this domain acts as an internal signal peptide, and that there is no Sev N-terminal intracellular domain. phyllopod (phyl) is the target gene of the RTK pathway, and we show that R7 precursors are selectively lost when phyl gene function is mildly compromised, and that other photoreceptors are removed when the gene function is further reduced. This result adds a key piece of evidence for the hyperactivation of the RTK pathway in the R7 precursor. To facilitate the hyperactivation of the RTK pathway, Sev is expressed at high levels. However, when we express DER at the levels at which Sev is expressed, strong gain-of-function effects result, consistent with ligand-independent activation of the receptor. This highlights another key feature of Sev; that it is expressed at high levels yet remains strictly ligand dependent. Finally, we find that activated Sev can rescue R3/4 photoreceptors when their DER function is abrogated. These results are collectively consistent with Sev and DER activating the same transduction machinery, with Sev generating a pathway hyperactivation to overcome the N-imposed block to photoreceptor specification in R7 precursors.

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PMC6726512 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    Dev. Biol.
    Developmental Biology
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