Analysis of the Otd-dependent transcriptome supports the evolutionary conservation of CRX/OTX/OTD functions in flies and vertebrates

Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, 243 Charles Street MEEI 507, Boston, MA 02445, USA.
Developmental Biology (Impact Factor: 3.64). 04/2008; 315(2):521-34. DOI: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.12.017
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Homeobox transcription factors of the vertebrate CRX/OTX family play critical roles in photoreceptor neurons, the rostral brain and circadian processes. In mouse, the three related proteins, CRX, OTX1, and OTX2, fulfill these functions. In Drosophila, the single founding member of this gene family, called orthodenticle (otd), is required during embryonic brain and photoreceptor neuron development. We have used global gene expression analysis in late pupal heads to better characterize the post-embryonic functions of Otd in Drosophila. We have identified 61 genes that are differentially expressed between wild type and a viable eye-specific otd mutant allele. Among them, about one-third represent potentially direct targets of Otd based on their association with evolutionarily conserved Otd-binding sequences. The spectrum of biological functions associated with these gene targets establishes Otd as a critical regulator of photoreceptor morphology and phototransduction, as well as suggests its involvement in circadian processes. Together with the well-documented role of otd in embryonic patterning, this evidence shows that vertebrate and fly genes contribute to analogous biological processes, notwithstanding the significant divergence of the underlying genetic pathways. Our findings underscore the common evolutionary history of photoperception-based functions in vertebrates and invertebrates and support the view that a complex nervous system was already present in the last common ancestor of all bilateria.

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