The veins in the Drosophila wing have a characteristic width, which is regulated by the activity of the Notch pathway. The expression of the Notch-ligand Delta is restricted to the developing veins, and coincides with places where Notch transcription is lower. We find that this asymmetrical distribution of ligand and receptor leads to activation of Notch on both sides of each vein within a territory of Delta-expressing cells, and to the establishment of boundary cells that separate the vein from adjacent interveins. In these cells, the expression of the Enhancer of split gene m beta is activated and the transcription of the vein-promoting gene veinlet is repressed, thus restricting vein differentiation. We propose that the establishment of vein thickness utilises a combination of mechanisms that include: (1) independent regulation of Notch and Delta expression in intervein and vein territories, (2) Notch activation by Delta in cells where Notch and Delta expression overlaps, (3) positive feedback on Notch transcription in cells where Notch has been activated and (4) repression of veinlet transcription by E(spl)m beta and maintenance of Delta expression by veinlet/torpedo activity.

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