The segregation of neural precursors from epidermal cells during development of the nervous system of Drosophila relies on interactions between cells that are thought to be initially equivalent. During development of the adult peripheral nervous system, failure of the cellular interactions leads to the differentiation of a tuft of sensory bristles at the site where usually only one develops. It is thus thought that a group of cells at that site (a proneural cluster) has the potential to make a bristle but that in normal development only one cell will do so. The question addressed here is do these cells constitute an equivalence group (Kimble, J., Sulston, J. and White, J. (1979). In Cell Lineage, Stem Cells and Cell Determination (ed. N. Le Douarin). Inserm Symposium No. 10 pp. 59–68, Elsevier, Amsterdam)? Within clusters mutant for shaggy, where several cells of a cluster follow the neural fate and differentiate bristles, it is shown that these display identical neuronal specificity: stimulation of the bristles evoke the same leg cleaning response and backfilling of single neurons reveal similar axonal projections in the central nervous system. This provides direct experimental evidence that the cells of a proneural cluster are developmentally equivalent.

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