The commonly used eye-specific sev-GAL4 and GMR-GAL4 drivers in Drosophila melanogaster are expressed in tissues other than eyes also

J Genet. 2015 Sep;94(3):407-16. doi: 10.1007/s12041-015-0535-8.


The binary GAL4-UAS system of conditional gene expression is widely used by Drosophila geneticists to target expression of the desired transgene in tissue of interest. In many studies, a preferred target tissue is the Drosophila eye, for which the sev-GAL4 and GMR-GAL4 drivers are most widely used since they are believed to be expressed exclusively in the developing eye cells. However, several reports have noted lethality following expression of certain transgenes under these GAL4 drivers notwithstanding the fact that eye is not essential for survival of the fly. Therefore, to explore the possibility that these drivers may also be active in tissues other than eye, we examined the expression of UAS-GFP reporter driven by the sev-GAL4 or GMR-GAL4 drivers. We found that both these drivers are indeed expressed in additional tissues, including a common set of specific neuronal cells in larval and pupal ventral and cerebral ganglia. Neither sev nor glass gene has so far been reported to be expressed in these neuronal cells. Expression pattern of sev-GAL4 driver parallels that of the endogenous Sevenless protein. In addition to cells in which sev-GAL4 is expressed, the GMR-GAL4 is expressed in several other larval cell types also. Further, two different GMR-GAL4 lines also show some specific differences in their expression domains outside the eye discs. These findings emphasize the need for a careful confirmation of the expression domains of a GAL4 driver being used in a given study, rather than relying only on the empirically claimed expression domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Eye / metabolism*
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Larva / cytology
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • Pupa / cytology
  • Pupa / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • GAL4 protein, Drosophila
  • Transcription Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins