A paper to be published online by Nature this week reveals how some neurons establish and maintain a precise tree-like pattern of dendrites, the slim projections that carry electrical signals to and from neighbouring cells.
Certain neurons in the fruitfly Drosophila have a very precise arrangement in which the spreading dendrites of one overlap little with another, like tiles on a floor. Yuh-Nung Jan and colleagues show that a pathway of molecules already implicated in cell proliferation and cancer is also vital for this patterning. In fruitflies with mutations in a gene called warts, neurons are initially able to tile dendrites across the body wall correctly but then progressively lose branches. A gene called hippo appears to be essential for both the establishment and maintenance of dendritic tiling.
Yuh-Nung Jan (University of California & Howard Hughes Medical Institute, San Francisco, CA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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