by Asif Bakshi, Rashmi Sipani, Neha Ghosh, Rohit Joshi
Neural circuitry for mating and reproduction resides within the terminal segments of central nervous system (CNS) which express Hox paralogous group 9–13 (in vertebrates) or Abdominal-B (Abd-B) in Drosophila. Terminal neuroblasts (NBs) in A8-A10 segments of Drosophila larval CNS are subdivided into two groups based on expression of transcription factor Doublesex (Dsx). While the sex specific fate of Dsx-positive NBs is well investigated, the fate of Dsx-negative NBs is not known so far. Our studies with Dsx-negative NBs suggests that these cells, like their abdominal counterparts (in A3-A7 segments) use Hox, Grainyhead (Grh) and Notch to undergo cell death during larval development. This cell death also happens by transcriptionally activating RHG family of apoptotic genes through a common apoptotic enhancer in early to mid L3 stages. However, unlike abdominal NBs (in A3-A7 segments) which use resident Hox gene Abdominal-A (Abd-A) as an apoptosis trigger, Dsx-negative NBs (in A8-A10 segments) keep the levels of resident Hox gene Abd-B constant. These cells instead utilize increasing levels of the temporal transcription factor Grh and a rise in Notch activity to gain apoptotic competence. Biochemical and in vivo analysis suggest that Abdominal-A and Grh binding motifs in the common apoptotic enhancer also function as Abdominal-B and Grh binding motifs and maintains the enhancer activity in A8-A10 NBs. Finally, the deletion of this enhancer by the CRISPR-Cas9 method blocks the apoptosis of Dsx-negative NBs. These results highlight the fact that Hox dependent NB apoptosis in abdominal and terminal regions utilizes common molecular players (Hox, Grh and Notch), but seems to have evolved different molecular strategies to pattern CNS.