Our goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the formation of the central nervous system. In particular, we have focused on the development of a small group of neurons and glia that lie along the midline of the Drosophila CNS. These midline cells possess a number of unique attributes which make them particularly amenable to molecular, cellular, and genetic examinations of nervous system formation and function. In addition, the midline cells exhibit distinctive ontogeny, morphology, anatomical position, and patterns of gene expression which suggest that they may provide unique functions to the developing CNS. The single-minded gene encodes a nuclear protein which is specifically expressed in the midline cells and has been shown to play a crucial role in midline cell development and CNS formation. Genetic experiments reveal that sim is required for the expression of many CNS midline genes which are thought to be involved in the proper differentiation of these cells. In order to identify additional genes which are expressed in some or all of the midline cells at different developmental stages, a technique known as enhancer trap screening was employed. This screen led to the identification of a large number of potential genes which exhibit various midline expression patterns and may be involved in discrete aspects of midline cell development. Further molecular, genetic, and biochemical analyses of sim and several of the enhancer trap lines are being pursued. This should permit elucidation of the genetic hierarchy which acts in the specification, differentiation, and function of these CNS midline cells.