The regulatory networks acting in individual neurons to control their stereotyped differentiation, connectivity, and function are not well understood. Here, we demonstrate that homeodomain protein Nkx6 is a key member of the genetic network of transcription factors that specifies neuronal fates in Drosophila. Nkx6 collaborates with the homeodomain protein Hb9 to specify ventrally projecting motoneuron fate and to repress dorsally projecting motoneuron fate. While Nkx6 acts in parallel with hb9 to regulate motoneuron fate, we find that Nkx6 plays a distinct role to promote axonogenesis, as axon growth of Nkx6-positive motoneurons is severely compromised in Nkx6 mutant embryos. Furthermore, Nkx6 is necessary for the expression of the neural adhesion molecule Fasciclin III in Nkx6-positive motoneurons. Thus, this work demonstrates that Nkx6 acts in a specific neuronal population to link neuronal subtype identity to neuronal morphology and connectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5233-5242
Number of pages10
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Axon outgrowth
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Eve
  • Interneurons
  • Islet
  • Lim3
  • Motoneurons
  • Neuronal fate specification
  • Nkx6
  • Vnd
  • hb9(exex)


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