1. Developmental Biology
  2. Chromosomes and Gene Expression
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Natural variation in stochastic photoreceptor specification and color preference in Drosophila

  1. Caitlin Anderson
  2. India Reiss
  3. Cyrus Zhou
  4. Annie Cho
  5. Haziq Siddiqi
  6. Benjamin Mormann
  7. Cameron M Avelis
  8. Peter Deford
  9. Alan Bergland
  10. Elijah Roberts
  11. James Taylor
  12. Daniel Vasiliauskas
  13. Robert J Johnston  Is a corresponding author
  1. Johns Hopkins University, United States
  2. New York University, United States
  3. University of Virginia, United States
  4. Université Paris-Saclay, France
Research Article
  • Cited 1
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Cite this article as: eLife 2017;6:e29593 doi: 10.7554/eLife.29593

Abstract

Each individual perceives the world in a unique way, but little is known about the genetic basis of variation in sensory perception. In the fly eye, the random mosaic of color-detecting R7 photoreceptor subtypes is determined by stochastic ON/OFF expression of the transcription factor Spineless (Ss). In a genome-wide association study, we identified a naturally occurring insertion in a regulatory DNA element in ss that lowers the ratio of SsON to SsOFF cells. This change in photoreceptor fates shifts the innate color preference of flies from green to blue. The genetic variant increases the binding affinity for Klumpfuss (Klu), a zinc finger transcriptional repressor that regulates ss expression. Klu is expressed at intermediate levels to determine the normal ratio of SsON to SsOFF cells. Thus, binding site affinity and transcription factor levels are finely tuned to regulate stochastic expression, setting the ratio of alternative fates and ultimately determining color preference.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Caitlin Anderson

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. India Reiss

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Cyrus Zhou

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Annie Cho

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Haziq Siddiqi

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Benjamin Mormann

    Department of Biology, New York University, New York, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Cameron M Avelis

    Department of Biophysics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  8. Peter Deford

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  9. Alan Bergland

    Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-7145-7575
  10. Elijah Roberts

    Department of Biophysics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  11. James Taylor

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-5079-840X
  12. Daniel Vasiliauskas

    Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Unité, Université Paris-Saclay, Paris, France
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  13. Robert J Johnston

    Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States
    For correspondence
    robertjohnston@jhu.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5775-6218

Funding

National Eye Institute (R01EY025598)

  • Robert J Johnston

Pew Charitable Trusts (27373)

  • Robert J Johnston

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Simon G Sprecher, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Publication history

  1. Received: June 14, 2017
  2. Accepted: December 15, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 18, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: December 22, 2017 (version 2)
  5. Accepted Manuscript updated: December 23, 2017 (version 3)
  6. Version of Record published: December 27, 2017 (version 4)
  7. Version of Record updated: January 12, 2018 (version 5)
  8. Version of Record updated: April 16, 2018 (version 6)

Copyright

© 2017, Anderson et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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