We have devised a genetic screen to obtain mutants affecting cell division patterning in the developing central nervous system of Drosophila. The division abnormally delayed (dally) locus was identified using a combination of “enhancer trap” and behavioral screening methods. The ordered cell cycle progression of lamina precursor cells, which generate synaptic target neurons for photoreceptors, is disrupted in dally mutants. The first of two lamina precursor cell divisions shows a delayed entry into mitosis. The second division, one that is triggered by an intercellular signal from photoreceptor axons, fails to take place. Similar to lamina precursors, cells that generate the ommatidia of the adult eye show two synchronized divisions found along the morphogenetic furrow in the eye disc and the first division cycle in dally mutants displays a delayed progression into M phase like that found in the first lamina precursor cell division. dally mutations also affect viability and produce morphological defects in several adult tissues, including the eye, antenna, wing and genitalia. Sequencing of a dally cDNA reveals a potential open reading frame of 626 amino acids with homology to a family of Glypican-related integral membrane proteoglycans. These heparan sulfate-containing proteins are attached to the external leaflet of the plasma membrane via a glycosylphosphatidylinositol linkage. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans may serve as co-receptors for a variety of secreted proteins including fibroblast growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, hepatocyte growth factor and members of the Wnt, TGF-beta and Hedgehog families. The cell division defects found in dally mutants implicate the Glypican group of integral membrane proteoglycans in the control of cell division during development.

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