Expression of acetylcholinesterase during visual system development in Drosophila

William J. Wolfgang, Micháel A. Forte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


As in other insects acetylcholine (ACh) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) function in synaptic transmission in the central nervous system of Drosophila. Studies on flies mutant for AChE indicate that in addition to its synaptic function of inactivating acetylcholine, this neural enzyme is required for normal development of the nervous system (J. C. Hall, S. N. Alahiotis, D. A. Strumpf, and K. White, 1980, Genetics 96, 939-965; R. J. Greenspan, J. A. Finn, and J. C. Hall, 1980, J. Comp. Neurol. 189, 741-774). In order to understand what role AChE may play in neural development, it is necessary to know, in detail, where and when the enzyme appears. The use of monoclonal antibodies to localize AChE in the developing visual system of wild type Drosophila has yielded the novel observation that AChE appears in photoreceptor (retinula) cells 4-6 hr after they differentiate and 3 to 4 days before they are functional. Three days later the staining in the cell body of these cells is reduced. Because retinula cells have no functional connections at the time when AChE is first detected, AChE can not be performing its standard synaptic function. Subsequent to the reduction of AChE in the retinula cells, midway through the pupal stage, the enzyme accumulates rapidly in the neuropils of the optic lobes of the brain. Thus, there is a biphasic accumulation of AChE in the developing visual system with the enzyme initially being expressed in the retinula cells and accumulating later in the optic lobes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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