Studies in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster have provided many fundamental insights into the genetic regulation of neural development, including the identification and characterization of evolutionarily conserved axon guidance pathways and their roles in important guidance decisions. Due to its highly organized and fast-developing embryonic nervous system, relatively small number of neurons, and molecular and genetic tools for identifying, labeling, and manipulating individual neurons or small neuronal subsets, studies of axon guidance in the Drosophila embryonic CNS have allowed researchers to dissect these genetic mechanisms with a high degree of precision. In this review, we discuss the major axon guidance pathways that regulate midline crossing of axons and the formation and guidance of longitudinal axon tracts, two processes that contribute to the development of the precise three-dimensional structure of the insect nerve cord. We focus particularly on recent insights into the roles and regulation of canonical midline axon guidance pathways, and on additional factors and pathways that have recently been shown to contribute to axon guidance decisions at and near the midline.
Keywords: Axon guidance; Drosophila; Frazzled; Midline; Netrin; Robo; Slit.
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