Control of size, fate and time by the Hh morphogen in the eyes of flies

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2020;137:307-332. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2019.10.011. Epub 2019 Nov 25.


Molecules of the hedgehog (hh) family are involved in the specification and patterning of eyes in vertebrates and invertebrates. These organs, though, are of very different sizes, raising the question of how Hh molecules operate at such different scales. In this paper we discuss the strategies used by Hh to control the development of the two eye types in Drosophila: the large compound eye and the small ocellus. We first describe the distinct ways in which these two eyes develop and the evidence for the key role played by Hh in both; then we consider the potential for variation in the range of action of a "typical" morphogen and measure this range ("characteristic length") for Hh in different organs, including the compound eye and the ocellus. Finally, we describe how different feedback mechanisms are used to extend the Hh range of action to pattern the large and even the small eye. In the ocellus, the basic Hh signaling pathway adds to its dynamics the attenuation of its receptor as cell differentiate. This sole regulatory change can result in the decoding of the Hh gradient by receiving cells as a wave of constant speed. Therefore, in the fly ocellus, the Hh morphogen adds to its spatial patterning role a novel one: patterning along a time axis.

Keywords: Drosophila; Eye; Feedback; Hedgehog; Morphogen gradient; Ocellus; Size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't