Date of Thesis



A major unresolved question in developmental neurobiology is how the nervous system is adapted to the specific needs of the organism at different life stages. In the holometabolous insect Drosophila melanogaster, the larval ventral nervous system (VNS) is comprised of similar repeating segments, as opposed to the adult VNS, which varies greatly from segment to segment both in number and types of neurons. The adult-specific neurons of each segment are generated by 25 distinct types of neuronal progenitor cells called neuroblasts (NBs) that appear in a stereotyped array (Truman et al., 2004). Each NB divides repeatedly to produce a distinct set of daughter cells termed a lineage, which is bilaterally symmetric but present to varying degrees in each segment. These daughter cells can be distinguished by their position within the nervous system as well as by their axonal projections. Each of the 25 NBs produces neurons; if both daughter cells are present in a lineage then both sibling populations survived, whereas if only one projection is seen cell death occurred, leaving a hemilineage (half lineage). In some lineages, the same sibling type survives in all segments in which the lineage appears, but in others, the surviving sibling type varies across segments, resulting in a different morphology for the same lineage in different segments. How are these differences in survival and morphology controlled? The Hox genes provide positional information for developing structures along the anterior-posterior (AP) axis of animals. They encode transcription factors, thereby controlling the activity of genes down stream. In the postembryonic VNS, each NB lineage features its own characteristic expression pattern of Hox genes Antp and Ubx, which can vary from segment-to-segment, and can thereby cause variation in the number of neural cells and axonal projections that survive. This study defines the wild-type expression pattern of Antp and elucidates the role of Antp in gain of function studies. These studies are possible due to the MARCM (Mosaic Analysis with a Repressible Cell Marker) method, which allows the genetically manipulated cells to be specifically labeled in an otherwise normal, unlabeled organism. The results indicate that Antp is expressed in a segment-, lineage-, and hemilineage-specific manner. Antp is sufficient for both anterior and posterior transformations of particular lineages, including promotion of cell death and/or survival as well as axon guidance.


Hox gene, Antennapedia, Drosophila, Ventral Nervous System, lineages

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Elizabeth Marin