We have examined the early pattern of sensory mother cells in embryos mutant for six different neurogenic loci. Our results show that the neurogenic loci are required to restrict the number of competent cells that will become sensory mother cells, but are not involved in controlling the localization or the position-dependent specification of competent cells. We conclude that these loci are involved in setting up a system of mutual inhibition, which transforms graded differences within the proneural clusters into an all-or-none difference between one cell, which becomes the sense organ progenitor cell, and the other cells, which remain epidermal.

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