Background: Formation of synaptic connections is a dynamic and highly regulated process. Little is known about the gene networks that regulate synaptic growth and how they balance stimulatory and restrictive signals.
Results: Here we show that the neuronally expressed transcription factor gene erect wing (ewg) is a major target of the RNA binding protein ELAV and that EWG restricts synaptic growth at neuromuscular junctions. Using a functional genomics approach we demonstrate that EWG acts primarily through increasing mRNA levels of genes involved in transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression, while genes at the end of the regulatory expression hierarchy (effector genes) represent only a minor portion, indicating an extensive regulatory network. Among EWG-regulated genes are components of Wingless and Notch signaling pathways. In a clonal analysis we demonstrate that EWG genetically interacts with Wingless and Notch, and also with TGF-beta and AP-1 pathways in the regulation of synaptic growth.
Conclusion: Our results show that EWG restricts synaptic growth by integrating multiple cellular signaling pathways into an extensive regulatory gene expression network.