ELAV, a Drosophila neuron-specific protein, mediates the generation of an alternatively spliced neural protein isoform

Curr Biol. 1996 Dec 1;6(12):1634-41. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(02)70787-2.


Background: Tissue-specific alternative pre-mRNA splicing is a widely used mechanism for gene regulation and the generation of different protein isoforms, but relatively little is known about the factors and mechanisms that mediate this process. Tissue-specific RNA-binding proteins could mediate alternative pre-mRNA splicing. In Drosophila melanogaster, the RNA-binding protein encoded by the elav (embryonic lethal abnormal visual system) gene is a candidate for such a role. The ELAV protein is expressed exclusively in neurons, and is important for the formation and maintenance of the nervous system.

Results: In this study, photoreceptor neurons genetically depleted of ELAV, and elav-null central nervous system neurons, were analyzed immunocytochemically for the expression of neural proteins. In both situations, the lack of ELAV corresponded with a decrease in the immunohistochemical signal of the neural-specific isoform of Neuroglian, which is generated by alternative splicing. Furthermore, when ELAV was expressed ectopically in cells that normally express only the non-neural isoform of Neuroglian, we observed the generation of the neural isoform of Neuroglian.

Conclusions: Drosophila ELAV promotes the generation of the neuron-specific isoform of Neuroglian by the regulation of pre-mRNA splicing. The findings reported in this paper demonstrate that ELAV is necessary, and the ectopic expression of ELAV in imaginal disc cells is sufficient, to mediate neuron-specific alternative splicing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing*
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / genetics*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • ELAV Proteins
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Male
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Ribonucleoproteins / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • ELAV Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Nrg protein, Drosophila