Conserved and divergent functions of Drosophila atonal, amphibian, and mammalian Ath5 genes

Yan Sun, Shami L. Kanekar, Monica L. Vetter, Sharon Gorski, Yuh Nung Jan, Thomas M Glaser, Nadean L Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Insect and vertebrate eyes differ in their formation, cellular composition, neural connectivity, and visual function. Despite this diversity, Drosophila atonal and its vertebrate Ortholog in the eye, Ath5, each regulate determination of the first retinal neuron class - R6 photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) - in their respective organisms. We have performed a cross-species functional comparison of these genes. In ato1 mutant Drosophila, ectopic Xenopus Ath5 (Xath5) rescues photoreceptor cell development comparably with atonal. In contrast, mouse Ath5 (Math5) induces formation of very few ommatidia, and most of these lack R8 cells. In the developing frog eye, ectopic atonal, like Xath5, promotes the differentiation RGCs. Despite strong conservation of atonal, Xath5, and Math5 structure and shared function, other factors must contribute to the species specificity of retinal neuron determination. These observations suggest that the atonal family may occupy a position in a gene hierarchy where differences in gene regulation or function can be correlated with evolutionary diversity of eye development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-541
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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