Pleiotropic signaling pathways must somehow engender specific cellular responses. In the Drosophila mesoderm, Ras pathway signaling specifies muscle founder cells from among the broader population of myoblasts. For somatic muscles, this is an inductive process mediated by the ETS-domain downstream Ras effectors Pointed and Aop (Yan). We demonstrate here that for the circular visceral muscles, despite superficial similarities, a significantly different specification mechanism is at work. Not only is visceral founder cell specification not dependent on Pointed or Aop, but Ras pathway signaling in its entirety can be bypassed. Our results show that de-repression, not activation, is the predominant role of Ras signaling in the visceral mesoderm and that, accordingly, Ras signaling is not required in the absence of repression. The key repressor acts downstream of the transcription factor Lame duck and is likely a member of the ETS transcription factor family. Our findings fit with a growing body of data that point to a complex interplay between the Ras pathway, ETS transcription factors, and enhancer binding as a crucial mechanism for determining unique responses to Ras signaling.
Keywords: Founder cell; Fusion competent myoblast; Muscle progenitor; Myogenesis; Signal integration.
© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.