Sex combs reduced: Biological Overview | Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Targets of Activity, Homeotic Effects, Post-Transcriptional Regulation and Protein Interactions | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

Gene name - Sex combs reduced

Synonyms -

Cytological map position - 84B1-2

Function - transcription factor

Keywords - homeotic - Antennapedia complex, salivary glands

Symbol - Scr

FlyBase ID:FBgn0003339

Genetic map position - 3-47.5

Classification - homeodomain - Antp class (Hoxa5 ortholog)

Cellular location - nuclear

NCBI links: Precomputed BLAST | Entrez Gene | HomoloGene | UniGene

Recent literature
Li, M., Ma, Z., Liu, J. K., Roy, S., Patel, S. K., Lane, D. C. and Cai, H. N. (2015). An organizational hub of developmentally regulated chromatin loops in the Drosophila Antennapedia complex. Mol Cell Biol 35(23):4018-29. PubMed ID: 26391952
Sex combs reduced (Scr) is directed by an unusually long regulatory sequence harboring diverse cis elements and an intervening neighbor gene fushi tarazu (ftz). This study reports the presence of a multitude of Chromatin boundary elements (CBEs) in the Scr regulatory region. Selective and dynamic pairing among these CBEs mediates developmentally regulated chromatin loops. In particular, the SF1 boundary plays a central role in organizing two subsets of chromatin loops: one subset encloses ftz, limiting its access by the surrounding Scr enhancers and compartmentalizing distinct histone modifications; and the other subset subdivides the Scr regulatory sequences into independent enhancer access domains. Tandem pairing of SF1 and SF2, two strong CBEs that flank the ftz domain, providing a mechanism for the endogenous Scr enhancer to circumvent the ftz domain. This study demonstrates how an endogenous CBE network, centrally orchestrated by SF1, could remodel the genomic environment to facilitate gene regulation during development.

Sadasivam, D.A. and Huang, D.H. (2016). Maintenance of tissue pluripotency by epigenetic factors acting at multiple levels. PLoS Genet 12: e1005897. PubMed ID: 26926299
Pluripotent stem cells often adopt a unique developmental program while retaining certain flexibility. The molecular basis of such properties remains unclear. Using differentiation of pluripotent Drosophila imaginal tissues as assays, this study examined the contribution of epigenetic factors in ectopic activation of Hox genes. It was found that over-expression of Trithorax H3K4 methyltransferase can induce ectopic adult appendages by selectively activating the Hox genes Ultrabithorax and Sex comb reduced in wing and leg discs, respectively. This tissue-specific inducibility correlates with the presence of paused RNA polymerase II in the promoter-proximal region of these genes. Although the Antennapedia promoter is paused in eye-antenna discs, it cannot be induced by Trx without a reduction in histone variants or their chaperones, suggesting additional control by the nucleosomal architecture. Lineage tracing and pulse-chase experiments revealed that the active state of Hox genes is maintained substantially longer in mutants deficient for HIRA, a chaperone for the H3.3 variant. In addition, both HIRA and H3.3 appear to act cooperatively with the Polycomb group of epigenetic repressors. These results support the involvement of H3.3-mediated nucleosome turnover in restoring the repressed state. The study proposes a regulatory framework integrating transcriptional pausing, histone modification, nucleosome architecture and turnover for cell lineage maintenance.
Papadopoulos, D. K., Krmpot, A. J., Nikolic, S. N., Krautz, R., Terenius, L., Tomancak, P., Rigler, R., Gehring, W. J. and Vukojevic, V. (2015). Probing the kinetic landscape of Hox transcription factor-DNA binding in live cells by massively parallel Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy. Mech Dev 138 Pt 2: 218-225. PubMed ID: 26428533
Hox genes encode transcription factors that control the formation of body structures, segment-specifically along the anterior-posterior axis of metazoans. Hox transcription factors bind nuclear DNA pervasively and regulate a plethora of target genes, deploying various molecular mechanisms that depend on the developmental and cellular context. To analyze quantitatively the dynamics of their DNA-binding behavior, confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), single-point fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy (FCCS) and bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) were used. The Hox transcription factor Sex combs reduced (Scr) was shown to form dimers that strongly associate with its specific fork head binding site (fkh250) in live salivary gland cell nuclei. In contrast, dimers of a constitutively inactive, phospho-mimicking variant of Scr show weak, non-specific DNA-binding. These studies reveal that nuclear dynamics of Scr is complex, exhibiting a changing landscape of interactions that is difficult to characterize by probing one point at a time. Therefore, mechanistic evidence is provided using massively parallel FCS (mpFCS). Scr dimers were found to predominantly formed on the DNA and are equally abundant at the chromosomes and an introduced multimeric fkh250 binding-site, indicating different mobilities, presumably reflecting transient binding with different affinities on the DNA. These proof-of-principle results emphasize the advantages of mpFCS for quantitative characterization of fast dynamic processes in live cells.


Sex combs reduced is required for labial and first thoracic segment development. Mutants show a tendency to transform labial into maxillary structures. The mutated labial segment appears to be transformed into something closely resembling the more anterior segment, resulting in duplication of maxillary structures. This simplistic, rather linear view of gene action is belied by more than five years research into the regulation of Sex combs reduced. Complex regulation implies a complex function. The biological tools currently employed are as yet too crude to elucidate what must be a high level of interactive complexity. Current understanding is partial and at times contradictory, like the divergent views of the fabled elephant examined by blind men.

From the vertebrate perspective, the labial segment produces what is perhaps the most ornate and alien of the fly's structures, the proboscus. The proboscus protrudes out and downward from the head, a flexible dipstick adapted to gather liquid nourishment. At its working end hang the labella, or labial palps. These furrowed bulbs gather liquid, and move it upward through a series of collecting channels until it reaches the hollow, straw-like labrum. From here, food continues its upward journey into the pharynx by means of muscular action.

Scr is subject to complex regulation. The gene is sandwiched between chromosomal segments that constitute its regulatory region, but even this area of the DNA is complex. It comprises a span of over 70 kb of DNA extending from Antennapedia at one end, sandwiching in the fushi tarazu gene on the way to doing the same with Scr, and continuing to a point beyond the 3' terminus of Deformed . Thus the regulation region of Scr includes the insertion of fushi tarazu, a critically important pair-rule gene.

The existence of pair-rule gene ftz in the center of a regulatory region for a homeotic gene of the Antennapedia complex has implications beyond current understanding. What is ftz doing there, and how is it co-regulated with Scr?

Regulation of Scr requires silencers as well and these are found in a large fragment between ftz and Antp located 40 kb upstream of the Scr promoter (Gorman, 1995).

The regulation of Scr in most tissues is controlled by multiple regulatory elements; the simple view of a proximal promoter and a structural gene proves to be an inadequate explanation. Expression in the prothorax (thoracic segment number one) is controlled by an element in the first intron and an enhancer on the other side of ftz. Expression in the labial lobe requires sequences in the first exon and intron, sequences on the far side of ftz, as well as other sequences, even further away in the direction of Antennapedia. Expression in the salivary gland requires these same regions and expression in the midgut requires sequences found between Scr and ftz. Expression in the CNS requires sequences in the second intron and the 3' end of ftz, as well as other regions. Given this level of complexity, no simple picture is possible (Gindhart, 1995b).

The complexity of Scr regulation, not at all unexpected considering the existence of site specific regulatory elements in such genes as achaete and even-skipped, nevertheless highlights an unbelieveable level of complexity in the evolution of gene regulation. Here are at least three different uses for the Scr gene: labial differentiation, CNS development and mesodermal development, each with independent gene regulation. It will be some time before the details at this level of complexity are understood in terms of the regulation and function of this gene.

Salivary gland formation in the Drosophila embryo is linked to the expression of Sex combs reduced. When Scr function is missing, salivary glands do not form, and when Scr is expressed everywhere, salivary glands form in new places. However, not every cell that expresses Scr is recruited to a salivary gland fate. Along the anterior-posterior axis, the posteriorly expressed proteins encoded by the teashirt (tsh) and Abdominal-B (Abd-B) genes block Scr activation of salivary gland genes. Along the dorsal-ventral axis, the secreted signaling molecule encoded by decapentaplegic prevents activation of salivary gland genes by Scr in dorsal regions of parasegment 2. Five downstream components in the Dpp signaling cascade required to block salivary gland gene activation have been identified: two known receptors (the type I receptor encoded by the thick veins gene and the type II receptor encoded by the punt gene); two of the four known Drosophila members of the Smad family of proteins which transduce signals from the receptors to the nucleus [Mothers against dpp (Mad) and Medea (Med)], and a large zinc-finger transcription factor encoded by the schnurri (shn) gene. The expression patterns of d-CrebA and Trachealess were examined in embryos missing zygotic function of schnurri. In embryos homozygous for shn, a dorsal expansion of salivary gland protein expression is observed. The presence of amnioserosa, an extreme dorsal cell type, suggests that embryos lacking zygotic shn function are not ventralized, as are embryos missing maternal and zygotic function of tkv, pt, Mad, or Med or missing zygotic function of dpp. These results reveal how anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral patterning information is integrated at the level of organ-specific gene expression (Henderson, 1999). Scr is normally expressed in all the cells that form the salivary gland. However, as the salivary gland invaginates, SCR mRNA and protein disappear. Homeotic genes, such as Scr, specify tissue identity by regulating the expression of downstream target genes. For many homeotic proteins, target gene specificity is achieved by cooperatively binding DNA with cofactors. Therefore, it is likely that Scr also requires a cofactor(s) to specifically bind to DNA and regulate salivary gland target gene expression. Two homeodomain-containing proteins encoded by the extradenticle and homothorax genes are also required for salivary gland formation. exd and hth function at two levels: (1) exd and hth are required to maintain the expression of Scr in the salivary gland primordia prior to invagination and (2) exd and hth are required in parallel with Scr to regulate the expression of downstream salivary gland genes. Scr regulates the nuclear localization of Exd in the salivary gland primordia through repression of homothorax expression, linking the regulation of Scr activity to the disappearance of Scr expression in invaginating salivary glands (Henderson, 2000).

To determine if Exd cooperates with Scr to control salivary gland gene expression, the accumulation of two early salivary gland proteins, CrebA and Trachealess (Trh), was examined in embryos lacking exd function. Zygotic loss of exd function results in a reduction in the number of salivary gland cells expressing CrebA and Trh, as well as a decrease in the level of protein made in these cells. This reduced level of salivary gland protein expression is not as severe as the one seen in Scr mutant embryos. Unlike SCR, EXD mRNA is supplied maternally and, thus, the maternal contribution may partially compensate for the loss of zygotic function. To test this possibility, the maternal contribution of exd was removed using the FLP-FRT system. In embryos lacking maternal exd function, salivary gland expression of CrebA and Trh is at wild-type levels. However, salivary gland expression of CrebA and Trh is completely absent in embryos lacking both the maternal and the zygotic contributions of exd. Thus, exd is required for embryonic salivary gland gene expression. Moreover, zygotically provided exd can rescue the loss of maternally provided exd and maternally provided exd can partially compensate for zygotic loss of exd (Henderson, 2000).

Since Scr, exd, and hth are required for salivary gland formation, the mRNA and/or protein expression patterns of these genes during normal salivary gland formation were examined. During stages 9 and 10, when salivary gland gene expression is established, Scr and hth are expressed in the salivary gland primordia, as well as other tissues, and Hth and Exd are nuclear. During stage 11, after the establishment of early salivary gland gene expression, the salivary glands begin to invaginate. At this stage, there are several changes in the expression and/or localization of these genes and/or proteins in the salivary gland cells: Scr and hth transcripts disappear, Hth protein disappears, and Exd protein becomes cytoplasmic (Henderson, 2000).

Hth is known to regulate the nuclear entry of Exd in other cells of the embryo and in the imaginal discs. In embryos lacking hth function, Exd is cytoplasmic throughout the embryo, including the cells of the salivary gland primordia. Since Hth is required for the activity of Exd, and Exd is required to maintain Scr expression in the salivary gland primordia, the expression of Scr in embryos lacking hth function was also examined. As observed in exd minus embryos, neither SCR mRNA nor Scr protein expression is maintained in the ventral cells of PS2 in hth mutants. Exd is required for the stability of Hth throughout the embryo and, correspondingly, a loss in Hth protein stability, but not HTH transcript accumulation is observed in exd mutant embryos. Thus, hth maintains the expression of Scr in the salivary gland primordia and regulates the nuclear localization of Exd throughout the embryo, including the cells of the salivary gland primordia. Furthermore, exd is required for accumulation of Hth (Henderson, 2000).

Scr, Exd, and Hth are expressed in the salivary gland primordia when salivary gland gene expression is established. Once the salivary gland cells begin to invaginate, the expression and/or localization of all three proteins changes in the salivary gland primordia. This result indicates that a gene(s) expressed in the salivary gland primordia during stage 11 is required for these changes in gene expression and protein localization. Since hth expression is specifically lost in the salivary gland primordia, a test was performed to see if Scr regulates hth expression in the salivary gland primordia. In embryos lacking Scr function, HTH mRNA and Hth protein are maintained in the cells that would normally form the salivary gland beyond stage 11. Correspondingly, Exd remains nuclear in the ventral cells of PS2 in embryos lacking Scr function. Therefore Scr is required to repress hth expression in the cells of the salivary gland primordia during stage 11. The loss of hth expression consequently leads to the loss of nuclear Exd accumulation (Henderson, 2000).

Since Scr may act either directly or indirectly to shut off hth expression, the expression of hth was examined in embryos mutant for two early salivary gland genes that encode transcription factors: fkh, which encodes a winged-helix transcription factor related to mammalian HNF-3beta, and Creb-A, which encodes a beta-Zip protein that binds cyclic-AMP-response elements. No change in hth expression is seen in embryos lacking either fkh or Creb-A function. Therefore, Scr does not act through fkh or Creb-A to shut off hth transcription. These findings suggest that prior to stage 11, Hth regulates the nuclear entry of Exd in the salivary gland primordia. During stage 11, Hth is no longer expressed in these cells and, as a consequence, Exd localizes to the cytoplasm. Without Exd and Hth in the nucleus, Scr expression is not maintained. To test this idea, hth expression was maintained in cells of the salivary gland primordia using the GAL4-UAS system. This expression pattern was achieved using a fkh-GAL4 construct to drive expression of UAS-hth in the salivary gland secretory cell primordia from stage 10 onward. When hth was expressed under the control of the fkh-GAL4 driver, Hth protein could be detected in the salivary gland nuclei throughout embryogenesis. Correspondingly, Exd and Scr were detected in the salivary gland until late stages of embryogenesis. These results indicate that Hth is not only necessary, but is also sufficient, to maintain Scr expression in the salivary gland (Henderson, 2000).

Cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous function of Hox genes specify segmental neuroblast identity in the gnathal region of the embryonic CNS in Drosophila

In thoracic and abdominal segments of Drosophila, the expression pattern of Bithorax-Complex Hox genes is known to specify the segmental identity of neuroblasts (NB) prior to their delamination from the neuroectoderm. This study identified and characterized a set of serially homologous NB-lineages in the gnathal segments and used one of them (NB6-4 lineage) as a model to investigate the mechanism conferring segment-specific identities to gnathal NBs. It was shown that NB6-4 is primarily determined by the cell-autonomous function of the Hox gene Deformed (Dfd). Interestingly, however, it also requires a non-cell-autonomous function of labial and Antennapedia that are expressed in adjacent anterior or posterior compartments. The secreted molecule Amalgam (Ama) was identified as a downstream target of the Antennapedia-Complex Hox genes labial, Dfd, Sex combs reduced and Antennapedia. In conjunction with its receptor Neurotactin (Nrt) and the effector kinase Abelson tyrosine kinase (Abl), Ama is necessary in parallel to the cell-autonomous Dad pathway for the correct specification of the maxillary identity of NB6-4. Both pathways repress CyclinE (CycE) and loss of function of either of these pathways leads to a partial transformation (40%), whereas simultaneous mutation of both pathways leads to a complete transformation (100%) of NB6-4 segmental identity. Finally, the study provides genetic evidences, that the Ama-Nrt-Abl-pathway regulates CycE expression by altering the function of the Hippo effector Yorkie in embryonic NBs. The disclosure of a non-cell-autonomous influence of Hox genes on neural stem cells provides new insight into the process of segmental patterning in the developing CNS (Becker, 2016).

The Drosophila head consists of seven segments (4 pregnathal and 3 gnathal) all of which contribute neuromeres to the CNS. The brain is formed by approximately 100 NBs per hemisphere, which have been individually identified and assigned to specific pregnathal segments [The anterior pregnathal region (procephalon) is composed of the labral, ocular, antennal, intercalary segments, see Segment polarity and DV patterning gene expression reveals segmental organization of the Drosophila brain]. As judged from comparison of the combinatorial codes of marker gene expression only few brain NBs appear to be serially homologous to NBs in the thoracic/abdominal ventral nerve cord, reflecting the highly derived character of the brain neuromeres. The connecting tissue between brain and the thoracic VNC consists of three neuromeres formed by the gnathal head segments named mandibular (mad), maxillary (max) and labial (lab) segment, but the number and identity of the neural stem cells and their lineage composition in these segments is still unknown. Compared to the thoracic ground state the segmental sets of gnathal NBs might be reduced to different degrees, but are thought to be less derived compared to the brain NBs. Therefore, to fully understand segmental specification during central nervous system development, it is important to identify the neuroblasts and their lineages in these interconnecting segments (Becker, 2016).

Assuming that most NBs in the gnathal segments still share similarities to thoracic and abdominal NBs, this study sought serially homologous NB-lineages, which are suitable for genetic analyses. Using the molecular marker eagle (eg), which specifically labels four NB-lineages in thoracic/abdominal hemisegments this study identified three serial homologs (NB3-3, NB6-4 and NB7-3) in the gnathal region. To investigate the mechanisms conferring segmental identities, focus was placed on one of them, the NB6-4 lineage, which shows the most significant segment-specific modifications. The analysis reveals a primary role of the Antennapedia-Complex (Antp-C) Hox gene Deformed (Dfd) in cell-autonomously specifying the maxillary fate of NB6-4 (NB6-4max). Surprisingly, an additional, non-cell-autonomous function was uncovered of the Antp-C Hox genes labial (lab, expressed anterior to Dfd) and Antennapedia (Antp, expressed posterior to Dfd) in specifying NB6-4max. In a mini-screen for downstream effectors the secreted protein Amalgam (Ama) was identified as being positively regulated by lab, Dfd and Antp and negatively regulated by the Antp-C Hox gene Sex combs reduced (Scr). Loss of function of Ama and its receptor Neurotactin (Nrt) as well as the downstream effector kinase Abelson tyrosine kinase (Abl) lead to a transformation of NB6-4max similar to Dfd single mutants. Thus, in parallel to the cell-autonomous role of Dfd, a non-cell-autonomous function of Hox genes lab and Antp, mediated via the Ama-Nrt-Abl pathway, is necessary to specify NB6-4max identity. Disruption of either of these pathways leads to a partial misspecification of NB6-4max (approx. 40%), whereas simultaneous disruption of both pathways leads to a complete transformation (approx. 100%) of NB6-4max to a labial/thoracic identity. It was further shown that both pathways regulate the expression of the cell cycle gene CyclinE, which is necessary and sufficient to generate labial/thoracic NB6-4 identity. Whereas Dfd seems to directly repress CyclinE transcription (similar to AbdA/AbdB in the trunk), indications are provided that the Ama-Nrt-Abl pathway prevents CyclinE expression by altering the activity of the Hippo/Salvador/Warts pathway effector Yorkie (Yki) (Becker, 2016).

Along the anterior-posterior axis the CNS consists of segmental units (neuromeres) the composition of which is adapted to the functional requirements of the respective body parts. In Drosophila the CNS comprises 10 abdominal, three thoracic, three gnathal and four pregnathal (brain) neuromeres that are generated by stereotyped populations of neural stem cells (neuroblasts, NBs). The pattern of NBs in thoracic segments resembles the ground state while NB patterns in the other segments are derived to various degrees. Within each segment individual NBs are specified by positional information in the neuroectoderm. NBs delaminating from corresponding positions in different segments express similar sets of molecular markers, generate similar lineages, and are called serial homologs. However, for thoracic and abdominal neuromeres it has been shown that the composition of a number of serially homologous NB-lineages shows segment-specific differences. In the more derived gnathal and pregnathal head segments embryonic NB-lineages and the mechanisms of their segmental specification have not been analyzed so far (Becker, 2016).

Using the well-established molecular marker Eagle (Eg) which labels four embryonic NB-lineages (NB2-4, NB3-3, NB6-4, NB7-3) in all thoracic and most of the abdominal segments this study identified serially homologous lineages of NB3-3, NB6-4 and NB7-3 in gnathal segments. The embryonic NB7-3 lineage shows segmental differences as it comprises increasing cell numbers from mandibular (2 cells), maxillary (3 cells) to labial (3-5 cells) segments, while cell numbers are decreasing from T1-T2 (4 cells), T3-A7 (3 cells) to A8 (2-3 cells). Reduced cell numbers in the mandibular and maxillary NB7-3 lineages depend on Dfd and Scr function, respectively . While NB7-3 appeared in all three gnathal segments, NB3-3 and NB6-4 was only found in labial and maxillary segments, and NB2-4 was not found in any of them. Preliminary data suggest that the missing NBs are not generated in these segments, instead of being eliminated by apoptosis. For the terminal abdominal neuromeres (A9, A10) it has recently been shown that the formation of a set of NBs (including NB7-3) is inhibited by the Hox gene Abdominal-B. Similarly, in Dfd mutants the formation was observed of a NB with NB6-4 characteristics in mandibular segments (10%), in which it is never found in wild type (Becker, 2016).

Similar to the thoracic and abdominal segments NB6-4 showed dramatic differences between maxillary and labial segments. NB6-4max produces glial cells only (like abdominal NB6-4), whereas the labial homolog produces neurons in addition to glial cells (like thoracic NB6-4). The number of glial cells produced by the glioblasts NB6-4max (4 cells) and abdominal NB6-4 (2 cells) and by the neuroglioblasts NB6-4lab (3 glia) and thoracic NB6-4 (3 glia) is segment-specific(Becker, 2016).

Thus segment-specific differences among serially homologous lineages may concern types and/or numbers of specific progeny cells and may result from differential specification of NBs and their progeny, differential proliferation and/or differential cell death of particular progeny cells. It has been shown that the segment-specific modification of serially homologous lineages is under the control of Hox genes and that during neurogenesis Hox genes act on different levels, i.e. they act in a context-specific manner at different developmental stages and in different cells. In the thoracic/abdominal region segmental identity is conferred to NBs early in the neuroectoderm by cell-autonomous function of Hox genes of the Bithorax-Complex. This study used the NB6-4 lineage to clarify mechanisms of segmental specification in the gnathal segments (Becker, 2016).

In segments of the trunk, the action of Hox genes strictly follows the rule of the posterior prevalence concept: More posterior expressed Hox genes repress anterior Hox genes and thereby determine the segmental identities. In the gnathal segments this phenomenon was not observed on the level of the nervous system. Removing Hox genes of the Antp-C had no or only minor impact on the expression domain of other Antp-C Hox genes. Similar results were also obtained in a study that analyzed cross-regulation of Hox genes upon ectopic expression (Becker, 2016).

Moreover, it seems that at least in the case of the differences monitored between labial and maxillary segments Hox gene function has to be added to realize the more anterior fate. Antennapedia has no impact on NB6-4 identity in the labial segment, but specification of the maxillary NB6-4 requires the function of Deformed and Sex combs reduced. These two Hox genes are not repressed or activated by Antp. Also, cross-regulation between Dfd and Scr seems to be unlikely or is very weak since only mild effects were observed on the protein level and on the phenotypic penetrance. In principle Scr can repress Dfd, but it was suggested that this occurs only when products are in sufficient amounts. In NB6-4 Dfd and Scr are co-expressed, but Scr levels appear to be insufficient to repress Dfd. Dfd seems to be the major Hox gene that cell-autonomously confers the maxillary NB6-4 fate, since the loss of Dfd showed the highest transformation rate and, more importantly, ectopic expression of Dfd in thoracic segments leads to a robust transformation towards maxillary fate. Scr does not act redundantly since in double mutants Dfd/Scr no synergistic effect was observed. It might have a fine-tuning effect, as it was shown that Scr influences Ama by repressing its transcription, whereas all other Antp-C Hox genes seem to activate Ama. However, since only minor changes were found in cell identities and numbers in Scr LoF background, the role of Scr in NB6-4max stays enigmatic (Becker, 2016).

Surprisingly cell-autonomous Hox gene function was not the only mechanism that confers segmental identity in NB6-4max. Loss of Dfd showed an effect in approx. 43% of all segments. Moreover, mutations of the adjacently expressed Hox genes labial and Antennapedia in combination with Dfd LoF showed a dramatic increase in the transformation rate of NB6-4max. Their expression patterns on the mRNA and protein level were carefully studied in wild type and Hox mutant background. In no case were these genes found to be expressed in NB6-4max or in the neuroectodermal region from which NB6-4max delaminates. This indicates that labial and Antennapedia influence NB6-4max fate in a non-cell-autonomous manner. That Hox genes can act non-cell-autonomously on stem cells was recently shown in the male germ-line, were AbdB influences centrosome orientation and the proliferation rate through regulation of the ligand Boss in the Sevenless-pathway. In this study Antp-C Hox genes controled the expression of the secreted molecule Amalgam, which spreads to adjacent segments and ensures segmental specification of NB6-4max in a parallel mechanism to the cell-autonomous function of Dfd. Thus, this study provides first evidence for parallel non-cell-autonomous and cell-autonomous functions of Antp-C genes during neural stem cell specification in the developing CNS (Becker, 2016).

Abelson kinase (Abl) was shown to be required for proper development of the Drosophila embryonic nervous system. In neurons Abl interacts with proteins like Robo or Chickadee and influences the actin cytoskeleton in the growth cone to regulate axonogenesis and pathfinding. In this system it was also demonstrated that Ama and Nrt are dominant modifiers of the Abl phenotype. It is proposed that the interaction of secreted Ama and the membrane-bound Nrt regulates Abl function in NBs. This leads to the correct segmental specification of NB6-4max. Antp-C Hox genes lab, Antp and Dfd regulate the expression of Ama and in mutants for theses Hox genes expression of Ama is severely reduced, which leads to the transformation of NB6-4max due to missing Abl function and de-repression of the cell cycle gene CyclinE. That Abl can influence the expression of CyclinE was also demonstrated in a modifier-screen in the Drosophila eye, but the mechanism remained unclear. Genetic analysis now suggests that in NBs this might occur via the regulation of the highly conserved Hippo-Salvador-Warts pathway and its downstream transcriptional co-activator Yki, which is known to regulate CyclinE expression. The Hippo-Salvador-Warts pathway controls organ growth and cell proliferation in Drosophila and vertebrates but so far has not been implicated in embryonic NB development. This study observed Yki cytoplasmic localization in wild type NB6-4max prior to division suggesting the active Hippo pathway. Nuclear localization of Yki could not be detected in Abl mutants, the loss of Yki activity in the Abl mutant background leads to a significant reduction in the strength of the Abl single mutant phenotype showing their genetic interaction and therefore supporting the proposed model in which Abl influences Yki activity. Moreover, expression of constitutive active Yki also lead to the transformation of NB6-4max and phenotypes that were similar to those observed in Abl mutants. Attempts were made to assess how Abl might influence Yki activity. Work in vertebrates suggests that this could be at least on two levels: first, c-Abl was shown to directly phosphorylate and activate the vertebrate MST1 and MST2 (Hpo homologue) and the Drosophila Hpo on a conserved residue (Y81) and second, c-Abl can also phosphorylate YAP1, which changes its function to become pro-apoptotic. This analysis suggests that in NBs Abl might regulate Hpo, since changes were found in the stability of Salvador, which is used as a Hpo activity readout, but a parallel direct regulation of Yki could not be ruled out, since it was recently shown that other pathways like the AMPK/LKB1 pathway can directly influence Yki activity. Since severe over-proliferation was observed in Abl or lab/Dfd mutants, that have an impaired Ama-Nrt-Abl pathway, or upon overexpression of YkiCA, future studies need to elucidate whether and how the proto-oncogene Abl kinase and Hox genes act on growth and proliferation or even tumor initiation through regulation of the Hippo/Salvador/Warts pathway (Becker, 2016).


Molecular mapping of Scr breakpoint lesions has defined a segment of greater than 70 kb of DNA necessary for proper Scr gene function. This region is split by the fushi tarazu (ftz) gene, with lesions affecting embryonic Scr function molecularly mapping to the region proximal (5') to ftz and those exhibiting polyphasic semilethality predominantly mapping distal (3') to ftz (Pattatucci, 1991a). Distal to ftz is Antennapedia, 30 kb from ftz, and 48 kb from Scr. Deformed is 20 kb downstream of Scr (Le Motte, 1989).

Genomic length - 23 kb

cDNA clone length - There are two transcripts, 3.6 and 5.2 kb consisting of alternative 3' ends (Andrew, 1995).

Bases in 5' UTR - 626

Exons - three

Bases in 3' UTR - 2261


Amino Acids - 417

Structural Domains

Scr has sequence homology to mouse HOXA5, B5 and C5 (see four paralogous Hox clusters of mammals). The greatest similarity is within the DNA-binding homeodomain. Two shorter conserved motifs are found: one near the N-terminus and a second in a region N-terminal to the homeodomain. The former consists of an MSSF sequence that differs by one amino acid from the MSSY consensus as with most of the D. melanogaster homeotic genes. The latter consists of a WPWM core sequence (LeMotte, 1989 and Andrew, 1995).

Sex combs reduced: Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Targets of Activity, Homeotic Effects, Post-Transcriptional Regulation and Protein Interactions | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

date revised: 5 August 2016

Home page: The Interactive Fly © 1995, 1996 Thomas B. Brody, Ph.D.

The Interactive Fly resides on the
Society for Developmental Biology's Web server.