The EGFR ligands Spitz and Keren act cooperatively in the Drosophila eye.
Brown KE., Kerr M., Freeman M.
The EGFR signalling cascade is responsible for coordinating a wide variety of events during Drosophila eye development. It remains something of a mystery how it is that cells are able to interpret the signal so as to choose the appropriate response from the battery of possibilities: division, differentiation, cell shape change and so on. Since the cascade is essentially linear below the receptor, different cellular responses cannot be regulated by alternative signal transduction pathways. The main diversity lies upstream, in the multiple activating ligands. Spitz, Gurken and Vein have been long studied, but little is known about the physiological functions of the fourth ligand, Keren, although various roles have been predicted based on the differences between mutants in the known ligands and those of the receptor. Here, we have isolated a mutant in the keren gene, and demonstrate that Keren does indeed participate in EGFR signalling in the eye, where it acts redundantly with Spitz to control R8 spacing, cell clustering and survival. Thus, specificity cannot be determined by ligand choice, and must instead be a consequence of cell-intrinsic factors, although we speculate that there may be some quantitative differences in signalling elicited by the two ligands.