Hierarchical axon targeting ofDrosophilaolfactory receptor neurons specified by the proneural transcription factors Atonal and Amos


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Abstract

Sensory information is spatially represented in the brain to form a neural map. It has been suggested that axon–axon interactions are important for neural map formation; however, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. We used theDrosophilaantennal lobe, the first olfactory center in the brain, as a model for studying neural map formation. Olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) expressing the same odorant receptor target their axons to a single glomerulus out of approximately 50 glomeruli in the antennal lobe. Previous studies have showed that the axons of Atonal ORNs, specified by Atonal, a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, pioneer antennal lobe formation; however, the details remain to be elucidated. Here, we show that genetic ablation of Atonal ORNs affects antennal lobe structure and axon targeting of Amos ORNs, another type of ORN specified by the bHLH transcription factor Amos. During development, Atonal ORNs reach the antennal lobe and form the axon commissure before Amos ORNs. We also found thatN-cadherinknockdown specifically in Atonal ORNs disrupts the glomerular boundary in the whole antennal lobe. Our results suggest that Atonal ORNs function as pioneer axons. Thus, correct axon targeting of Atonal ORNs is essential for formation of the whole antennal lobe.

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