This event is organised by the Programme on Mind and Machine
Neuronal birth and specification must be coordinated across the developing brain to generate the neurons that constitute neural circuits. This is particularly true for sensory systems where topographic maps are built by connecting neurons at different levels of circuitry. I use the ordered Drosophila visual system to investigate how neuronal development is coordinated across different brain regions to establish retinotopy, afeature of all visual systems. Photoreceptors were believed to achieve retinotopy by inducing their target field in the optic lobe, the lamina composed of five neuron types, by a secreted differentiation cue (Epidermal Growth Factor; EGF). I will discuss my recent finding that communication between photoreceptors and lamina precursor cells is indirect, and requires a signaling relay through wrapping glia. Specifically, I have found that in response to EGF from photoreceptors, wrapping glia produce insulin-like peptides, which in turn induce lamina neuronal differentiation. I propose that the signaling relay through glia is a strategy to translate an otherwise homogenous photoreceptor cue into one with spatio-temporal stratification. Additionally, incorporating a relay via glia delays the differentiation cue to the lamina, thus ensuring that lamina ‘unit’ assembly is completed prior to differentiation.
About the speaker
Vilaiwan Fernandes is a postdoctoral fellow in Claude Desplan’s lab at New York University. Her scientific career began at the University of Washington’s Center for Cell Dynamics with Garrett Odell, where she worked on computational models of gene regulatory networks and the evolution of robustness. She then joined Esther Verheyen’s lab at Simon Fraser University, where she received her PhD for work on epithelial morphogenesis during retinal development in Drosophila.
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