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Estes Lab

midline and trachea anterior CNS

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Development of the Drosophila Central Nervous System


We study how the central nervous system (CNS) is constructed during embryonic development. To do this, we analyze which genes and gene networks are active in specific neural and glial cell types using the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. We focus on a simple CNS cell lineage, the midline, because it consists of a small number of cell types that are easy to identify and follow during development.

Using computational, comparative and experimental methods, we identify and dissect regions of the genome and molecular mechanisms that control CNS midline cell development. The 12 sequenced Drosophila genomes are utilized to study gene regulation and identify cis-regulatory regions of midline genes. These regions are then studied to identify transcription factors and signaling pathways that regulate gene expression within the CNS midline throughout the lifetime of the fly.

Many mechanisms used during CNS midline cell development are shared with other cell types, while some are unique to the nervous system; and our goal is to identify and understand both. This information may shed light on more complex systems, including the mammalian CNS and by understanding how neurons normally develop, the studies may indicate how new neurons and glia can be restored after injury.