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A comprehensive temporal patterning gene network in Drosophila medulla neuroblasts revealed by single-cell RNA sequencing


During development, neural progenitors are temporally patterned to sequentially generate a variety of neural types. In Drosophila neural progenitors called neuroblasts, temporal patterning is regulated by cascades of Temporal Transcription Factors (TTFs). However, known TTFs were mostly identified through candidate approaches and may not be complete. In addition, many fundamental questions remain concerning the TTF cascade initiation, progression, and termination. In this work, we use single-cell RNA sequencing of Drosophila medulla neuroblasts of all ages to identify a list of previously unknown TTFs, and experimentally characterize their roles in temporal patterning and neuronal specification. Our study reveals a comprehensive temporal gene network that patterns medulla neuroblasts from start to end. Furthermore, the speed of the cascade progression is regulated by Lola transcription factors expressed in all medulla neuroblasts. Our comprehensive study of the medulla neuroblast temporal cascade illustrates mechanisms that may be conserved in the temporal patterning of neural progenitors.