The Drosophila brain revisited by enhancer detection

Pyung Lim Han, Victoria Meller, Ronald L. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The patterns of gene expression in the Drosophila brain were studied by using the lacZ reporter gene carried on an enhancer detector element. From the analysis of serial sections of the heads of 6000 enhancer detector lines, reporter gene expression in some lines was found to generally follow boundaries established by cell type or anatomy, revealing distinct patterns of lacZ expression restricted to the lamina, the medulla, mushroom bodies, antennal lobes, or other anatomical subdivisions. About 15% of the lines showed ubiquitous expression in most or all head tissues and 25% of the lines showed expression throughout the CNS. Another quarter of the lines showed widespread expression in the CNS, with large regions of the brain showing expression. This suggests that the majority of detected genes are expressed with little spatial specificity. The expression patterns produced by 12 different insertions at the rutabaga locus were found to be extremely similar in the brain and offer strong evidence that the enhancer detector elements generally report the activity of an adjacent gene. Only 15% of the lines were judged to have relatively specific expression in one brain region, including those with preferential or specific expression in the mushroom bodies, antennal lobes, lamina, medulla, etc. The cytological insertion sites for elements showing preferential mushroom body expression were found to be dispersed in the genome at approximately 50 different chromosomal regions. In addition to providing a broad picture of the transcriptional activity in the Drosophila brain, these enhancer detector lines offer access to interesting new genes and form a novel collection of lines in which identifiable brain cells are marked in a reproducible way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-102
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • Drosophila brain
  • enhancer detection
  • mushroom bodies


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