The Drosophila central nervous system (CNS) develops from a population of stem cells called neuroblasts; each neuroblast goes through an invariant cell lineage to produce a characteristic family of neurons or glia. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms controlling neuroblast cell lineage. Recently we identified the prospero (pros) gene, which is expressed in embryonic neuroblasts. Loss of pros function results in aberrant expression of the homeobox genes fushi tarazu, evenskipped and engrailed in a subset of neuroblast progeny, suggesting that pros plays an early and fundamental role in the specification of neuronal fate (Doe et al. 1991). Here we show that the pros gene encodes a highly divergent homeodomain. The homeodomain contains several of the most conserved amino acids characteristic of known homeodomains, yet it is considerably less basic than previously identified homeodomains. These data are consistent with a model in which pros controls neuroblast cell lineages by regulating gene expression.

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