During sensory organ precursor (SOP) specification, a single cell is selected from a proneural cluster of cells. Here, we present evidence that Senseless (Sens), a zinc-finger transcription factor, plays an important role in this process. We show that Sens is directly activated by proneural proteins in the presumptive SOPs and a few cells surrounding the SOP in most tissues. In the cells that express low levels of Sens, it acts in a DNA-binding-dependent manner to repress transcription of proneural genes. In the presumptive SOPs that express high levels of Sens, it acts as a transcriptional activator and synergizes with proneural proteins. We therefore propose that Sens acts as a binary switch that is fundamental to SOP selection.
- Enhancer of split
- Neuronal specification
- Peripheral nervous system development
- Proneural genes