A small pool of neural progenitors generates the vast diversity of cell types in the CNS. Spatial patterning specifies progenitor identity, followed by temporal patterning within progenitor lineages to expand neural diversity. Recent work has shown that in Drosophila, all neural progenitors (neuroblasts) sequentially express temporal transcription factors (TTFs) that generate molecular and cellular diversity. Embryonic neuroblasts use a lineage-intrinsic cascade of five TTFs that switch nearly every neuroblast cell division; larval optic lobe neuroblasts also use a rapid cascade of five TTFs, but the factors are completely different. In contrast, larval central brain neuroblasts undergo a major molecular transition midway through larval life, and this transition is regulated by a lineage-extrinsic cue (ecdysone hormone signaling). Overall, every neuroblast lineage uses a TTF cascade to generate diversity, illustrating the widespread importance of temporal patterning.
Keywords: neural diversity; neural stem cell; neuroblast; subtemporal; temporal identity.