In the upcoming issue of G&D, Dr. Yuh-Nung Jan and colleagues at UCSF lend surprising new insight into the regulation of dendrite morphology in the fruit fly, Drosophila. The Drosophila peripheral nervous system contains four classes of dendritic arborization (da) sensory neurons, which differ in their stereotyped dendritic branching pattern. Dr. Jan and colleagues demonstrate that the gene spineless (ss) regulates the branching patterns of these neurons. The researchers found that in ss mutants, normally simple da neurons develop more complex dendritic arbors, whereas normally complex da neurons develop simpler dendrite patterns. "We hypothesize that spineless, which is an ancient, evolutionarily conserved gene, may be acting to convert a primordial dendrite pattern to different complexities for different neurons. Many neurological disorders such as autism are likely associated with dendrite defects. Understanding how dendritic morphogenesis is controlled may provide helpful hints to the the cause of those disorders," reasons Dr. Jan.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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