Hox genes and brain development in Drosophila

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2010;689:145-53. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-6673-5_11.


Hox genes are prominently expressed in the developing brain and ventral ganglia of Drosophila. In the embryonic brain, the Hox genes labial and Deformed are essential for the establishment of regionalized neuronal identity; in their absence cells are generated in the brain but fail to acquire appropriate neuronal features. Genetic analyses reveal that Hox proteins are largely equivalent in their action in embryonic brain development and that their expression is under the control of cross-regulatory interactions among Hox genes that are similar to those found in embryogenesis of trunk segments. Hox genes have a different role in postembryonic brain development. During the larval phase of CNS development, reactivation of specific Hox genes terminates neural proliferation by induction of apoptotic cell death in neural stem cell-like progenitors called neuroblasts. This reactivation process is tightly controlled by epigenetic mechanisms requiring the Polycomb group of genes. Many features of Hox gene action in Drosophila brain development are evolutionarily conserved and are manifest in brain development of vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila / embryology
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / anatomy & histology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Genes, Insect
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins