One project in the Marin lab involves the role of the Hox genes in shaping the fruit fly ventral nervous system. The Hox genes are used by most animals, including humans, to provide information to cells about their position along the body axis from head to tail. We use a sophisticated molecular genetic technique called MARCM to label and manipulate single neurons or lineages of neurons descended from the same progenitor cell. There are 25 different neuronal lineages in each body segment that can be identified based on their size, shape, and location in the sample. (A) depicts a maximally projected, or flattened, confocal stack from a sample ventral nervous system containing six labeled neuronal lineages (asterisks). (B) The Hox gene Antp, shown here in magenta, is turned on mainly in the second thoracic segment, where the neurons controlling flight are located. This is a single optical slice from the same sample shown in (A). A complete atlas of the expression pattern of this gene in the neuronal lineages of "wild type" samples has been generated from images like these and can be compared to that of mutant samples.
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