THE Drosophila central nervous system develops from a segment-ally reiterated array of 30 unique neural precursors, called neuro-blasts. Each neuroblast goes through a stereotyped cell lineage to produce an invariant clone of neural progeny. It is critical to identify the genes that specify neuroblast identity as these genes control the time of formation, gene expression profile, and cell lineage characteristics of each neuroblast. Here we show that the Pax-type gooseberry-distal gene specifies row 5 neuroblast identity. Initially, four rows of neuroblasts form per segment (1, 3, 5, 7) and gooseberry-distal is expressed in row 5 neuroblasts1–3. By using 10 molecular markers, and by following the number and orientation of neuroblast divisions, we show that lack of gooseberry-distal transforms row 5 neuroblasts into row 3 neuroblasts, whereas ubiquitous gooseberry-distal generates the reciprocal transformation. Thus, gooseberry-distal is necessary and sufficient to specify row 5 neuroblast identity autonomously. The 10 genes coordinately regulated by gooseberry-distal are prime candidates for controlling specific aspects of neuroblast identity.
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