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Dendrite branching and self-avoidance are controlled by Turtle, a conserved IgSF protein in Drosophila
Hong Long, Yimiao Ou, Yong Rao, Donald J. van Meyel


The dendritic trees of neurons result from specific patterns of growth and branching, and dendrite branches of the same neuron avoid one another to spread over a particular receptive field. Recognition molecules on the surfaces of dendrites influence these patterning and avoidance processes by promoting attractive, repulsive or adhesive responses to specific cues. The Drosophila transmembrane protein Turtle (Tutl) and its orthologs in other species are conserved members of the immunoglobulin superfamily, the in vivo functions of which are unknown. In Drosophila sensory neurons, we show that the tutl gene is required to restrain dendrite branch formation in neurons with simple arbors, and to promote dendrite self-avoidance in neurons with complex arbors. The cytoplasmic tail of Tutl is dispensable for control of dendrite branching, suggesting that Tutl acts as a ligand or co-receptor for an unidentified recognition molecule to influence the architecture of dendrites and their coverage of receptive territories.


  • We thank Fen-Biao Gao, Wayne Johnson, Liqun Luo, Yuh Nung Jan, Bing Ye, Susan Younger, Dietmar Schmucker, Adrian Moore, the Bloomington and Harvard stock centers, and the Drosophila Genomic Resource Centre for fly stocks and reagents. We also thank Michael Haber for help in quantifying dendrite parameters, and Keith Murai, Matthias Landgraf, Catriona McDonald and members of the Rao and van Meyel laboratories for advice. The work was supported by funds from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR Team Grant to Y.R. and D.J.v.M., Operating Grant to Y.R., International Opportunities Grant to D.J.v.M.), the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (D.J.v.M.), and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Y.R. is an FRSQ Senior Research Scholar. D.J.v.M. is a CIHR New Investigator.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work

    • Accepted August 19, 2009.
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