The formation of a complex nervous system requires the coordinated action of progenitor cell proliferation, differentiation and maturation. The Drosophila postembryonic central nervous system provides a powerful model for dissecting the cellular and molecular mechanisms underpinning neurogenesis. We previously identified the conserved zinc finger/RING protein Unkempt (Unk) as a key temporal regulator of neuronal differentiation in the Drosophila developing eye and showed that Unk acts downstream of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway together with its binding partner Headcase (Hdc). Here we investigate the role of Unk in Drosophila postembryonic thoracic neurogenesis. The Drosophila central nervous system contains neural stem cells, called neuroblasts, and neural progenitors, known as ganglion mother cells (GMCs). Unk is highly expressed in the central brain and ventral nerve cord but is not required to maintain neuroblast numbers or for the regulation of temporal series factor expression in neuroblasts. However, loss of Unk increases the number of neuroblasts and GMCs in S-phase of the cell cycle, resulting in the overproduction of neurons. We also show that Unk interacts with Hdc through its zinc finger domain. The zinc finger domain is required for the synergistic activity of Unk with Hdc during eye development but is not necessary for the activity of Unk in thoracic neurogenesis. Overall, this study shows that Unk and Hdc are novel negative regulators of neurogenesis in Drosophila and indicates a conserved role of mTOR signalling in nervous system development.
Keywords: Drosophila; Headcase; Neuroblast; Neurogenesis; Unkempt; mTOR.
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