PloS one

Rhomboid Enhancer Activity Defines a Subset of Drosophila Neural Precursors Required for Proper Feeding, Growth and Viability.

PMID 26252385


Organismal growth regulation requires the interaction of multiple metabolic, hormonal and neuronal pathways. While the molecular basis for many of these are well characterized, less is known about the developmental origins of growth regulatory structures and the mechanisms governing control of feeding and satiety. For these reasons, new tools and approaches are needed to link the specification and maturation of discrete cell populations with their subsequent regulatory roles. In this study, we characterize a rhomboid enhancer element that selectively labels four Drosophila embryonic neural precursors. These precursors give rise to the hypopharyngeal sensory organ of the peripheral nervous system and a subset of neurons in the deutocerebral region of the embryonic central nervous system. Post embryogenesis, the rhomboid enhancer is active in a subset of cells within the larval pharyngeal epithelium. Enhancer-targeted toxin expression alters the morphology of the sense organ and results in impaired larval growth, developmental delay, defective anterior spiracle eversion and lethality. Limiting the duration of toxin expression reveals differences in the critical periods for these effects. Embryonic expression causes developmental defects and partially penetrant pre-pupal lethality. Survivors of embryonic expression, however, ultimately become viable adults. In contrast, post-embryonic toxin expression results in fully penetrant lethality. To better define the larval growth defect, we used a variety of assays to demonstrate that toxin-targeted larvae are capable of locating, ingesting and clearing food and they exhibit normal food search behaviors. Strikingly, however, following food exposure these larvae show a rapid decrease in consumption suggesting a satiety-like phenomenon that correlates with the period of impaired larval growth. Together, these data suggest a critical role for these enhancer-defined lineages in regulating feeding, growth and viability.