Multipotent versus differentiated cell fate selection in the developing Drosophila airways

Elife. 2015 Dec 2:4:e09646. doi: 10.7554/eLife.09646.


Developmental potentials of cells are tightly controlled at multiple levels. The embryonic Drosophila airway tree is roughly subdivided into two types of cells with distinct developmental potentials: a proximally located group of multipotent adult precursor cells (P-fate) and a distally located population of more differentiated cells (D-fate). We show that the GATA-family transcription factor (TF) Grain promotes the P-fate and the POU-homeobox TF Ventral veinless (Vvl/Drifter/U-turned) stimulates the D-fate. Hedgehog and receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling cooperate with Vvl to drive the D-fate at the expense of the P-fate while negative regulators of either of these signaling pathways ensure P-fate specification. Local concentrations of Decapentaplegic/BMP, Wingless/Wnt, and Hedgehog signals differentially regulate the expression of D-factors and P-factors to transform an equipotent primordial field into a concentric pattern of radially different morphogenetic potentials, which gradually gives rise to the distal-proximal organization of distinct cell types in the mature airway.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; airway; developmental biology; differentiation; multipotent stem cell; proximo-distal axis; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • POU Domain Factors / metabolism
  • Respiratory System / embryology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • POU Domain Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • grh protein, Drosophila
  • vvl protein, Drosophila

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.