Background. The Drosophila embryonic central nervous system (CNS) develops from two sets of progenitor cells, neuroblasts and ventral midline progenitors, which behave differently in many respects. Neuroblasts derive from the neurogenic region of the ectoderm and form the lateral parts of the CNS. Ventral midline precursors are formed by two rows of mesectodermal cells and build the CNS midline. There is plenty of evidence that individual identities are conferred to precursor cells by positional information in the ectoderm. It is unclear, however, how far the precursors can maintain their identities and developmental properties in the absence of normal external signals. Results. To separate the respective contributions of autonomous properties versus extrinsic signals during their further development, we isolated individual midline precursors and neuroectodermal precursors at the pre-mitotic gastrula stage, traced their development in vitro, and analyzed the characteristics of their lineages in comparison with those described for the embryo. Although individually cultured mesectodermal cells exhibit basic characteristics of CNS midline progenitors, the clones produced by these progenitors differ from their in situ counterparts with regard to cell numbers, expression of molecular markers, and the separation of neuronal and glial fate. In contrast, clones derived from individually cultured precursors taken from specific dorsoventral zones of the neuroectoderm develop striking similarities to the lineages of neuroblasts that normally delaminate from these zones and develop in situ. Conclusion. This in vitro analysis allows for the first time a comparison of the developmental capacities in situ and in vitro of individual neural precursors of defined spatial and temporal origin. The data reveal that cells isolated at the pre-mitotic and pre-delamination stage express characteristics of the progenitor type appropriate to their site of origin in the embryo. However, presumptive neuroblasts, once specified in the neuroectoderm, exhibit a higher degree of autonomy regarding generation of their lineages compared to mesectodermal midline progenitors.
Lüer, K., & Technau, G. M. (2009). Single cell cultures of drosophila neuroectodermal and mesectodermal central nervous system progenitors reveal different degrees of developmental autonomy. Neural Development, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1749-8104-4-30