Genetic analysis of neural and muscular development in the Drosophila embryo
The long-term focus of our research is to elucidate the genetic and molecular mechanisms that act progressively to specify individual fates upon neurons and then to direct these neurons to connect functionally with their appropriate target cell(s). To achieve this goal we study two questions. How do neuronal precursor cells divide asymmetrically to produce post-mitotic sibling neurons of different fates? And, how do these post-mitotic neurons then implement distinct differentiation programs that enable them to project axons toward, to identify and finally to synapse with their correct targets? Our work has shown that the behavior of neuronal precursors as well as post-mitotic neurons is governed by the integrative actions of intrinsic cell-fate determinants and cell-cell signaling pathways. Such pathways often converge on pivotal molecules and we have found that the activity of such molecules is often regulated at the level of subcellular localization. We are continuing to employ genetics, cell biology, biochemisty and confocal microscopy to identify and to characterize new mediators of these events to obtain a comprehensive understanding of neuronal connectivity.