In living organisms, self-organised waves of signalling activity propagate spatiotemporal information within tissues. During the development of the largest component of the visual processing centre of the Drosophila brain, a travelling wave of proneural gene expression initiates neurogenesis in the larval optic lobe primordium and drives the sequential transition of neuroepithelial cells into neuroblasts. Here, we propose that this 'proneural wave' is driven by an excitable reaction-diffusion system involving epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signalling interacting with the proneural gene l'sc. Within this framework, a propagating transition zone emerges from molecular feedback and diffusion. Ectopic activation of EGFR signalling in clones within the neuroepithelium demonstrates that a transition wave can be excited anywhere in the tissue by inducing signalling activity, consistent with a key prediction of the model. Our model illuminates the physical and molecular underpinnings of proneural wave progression and suggests a generic mechanism for regulating the sequential differentiation of tissues.
Keywords: D. melanogaster; developmental biology; optic lobe; physics of living systems; proneural wave; reaction-diffusion system; sequential patterning.
© 2019, Jörg et al.