Preferential adhesion maintains separation of ommatidia in the Drosophila eye

Sujin Bao, Karl Friedrich Fischbach, Victoria Corbin, Ross L. Cagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


In the Drosophila eye, neighboring ommatidia are separated by inter-ommatidial cells (IOCs). How this ommatidial spacing emerges during eye development is not clear. Here we demonstrate that four adhesion molecules of the Irre cell recognition module (IRM) family play a redundant role in maintaining separation of ommatidia. The four IRM proteins are divided into two groups: Kirre and Rst are expressed in IOCs, and Hbs and Sns in primary pigment cells (1°s). Kirre binds Hbs and Sns in vivo and in vitro. Reducing activity of either Rst or Kirre alone had minimal effects on ommatidial spacing, but reducing both together led to direct ommatidium:ommatidium contact. A similar phenotype was also observed when reducing both Hbs and Sns. Consistent with the role of these factors in sorting ommatidia, mis-expression of Hbs plus Sns within a single IOC led to complete separation of the cell from neighboring ommatidia. Our results indicate mutual preferential adhesion between ommatidia and IOCs mediated by four IRM proteins is both necessary and sufficient to maintain separation of ommatidia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)948-956
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Cell adhesion
  • Drosophila
  • Eye
  • IRM proteins
  • Pattern formation
  • Preferential adhesion


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