The commissureless (comm) gene was identified previously in a large-scale screen for mutations that disrupt CNS axon pathways in Drosophila. The comm gene has a unique mutant phenotype: the complete absence of most axon commissures, while midline cells and other aspects of CNS fate and patterning are left unchanged. Here, we report on the molecular cloning, characterization, and expression of the comm gene. comm encodes a novel protein of 370 amino acids that lacks a signal sequence, has a transmembrane domain, and biochemically copurifies with membranes. COMM mRNA and COMM protein are dynamically expressed during embryogenesis, including by CNS midline gila during the formation of the axon commissures. Anti-COMM antibodies reveal strong staining of organelles likely to include the Golgi complex and andosomes end weaker staining of the cell surface. As commissural growth cones contact and traverse the CNS midline, COMM protein is apparently transferred from midline gila to commissural axons.
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