The spitz gene is required for photoreceptor determination in the Drosophila eye where it interacts with the EGF receptor.
Little is known about the mechanisms by which photoreceptors other than R7 are determined during Drosophila eye development. By looking for mutations that modify the phenotype caused by ectopic expression of the rhomboid gene in the eye, I have discovered that the spitz gene is required for photoreceptor determination. Mosaic analysis suggests that spitz, which encodes a TGF alpha homologue, produces a diffusible signal during ommatidial development. Other members of the spitz group and the EGF receptor also interact with sev-rho, in a pattern that suggests a model in which rhomboid can act as a mediator of a ligand-receptor interaction between spitz and Egfr in the developing eye. These data suggest that photoreceptors other than R7 use a Ras1 signalling pathway activated by the spitz/Egfr interaction, in a manner analogous to the Ras1 pathway activated by boss/sevenless in photoreceptor R7.