Temporal patterning of neural progenitors, in which different factors are sequentially expressed, is an evolutionarily conserved strategy for generating neuronal diversity during development. In the Drosophila embryo, mechanisms that mediate temporal patterning of neural stem cells (neuroblasts) are largely cell-intrinsic. However, after embryogenesis, neuroblast temporal patterning relies on extrinsic cues as well, as freshly hatched larvae seek out nutrients and other key resources in varying natural environments. We recap current understanding of neuroblast-intrinsic temporal programs and discuss how neuroblast extrinsic cues integrate and coordinate with neuroblast intrinsic programs to control numbers and types of neurons produced. One key emerging extrinsic factor that impacts temporal patterning of neuroblasts and their daughters as well as termination of neurogenesis is the steroid hormone, ecdysone, a known regulator of large-scale developmental transitions in insects and arthropods. Lastly, we consider evolutionary conservation and discuss recent work on thyroid hormone signaling in early vertebrate brain development.
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