The Drosophila compound eye is an excellent experimental system for analysing fate induction of identifiable single cells. Each ommatidium, a unit eye, contains eight photoreceptors (R1‐R8), and the differentiation of these photoreceptors occurs in the larval eye imaginal disc in discrete steps: first R8 is determined, then R2/R5, R3/R4, R1/R6 and finally R7. Induction of R7, in particular, has been extensively studied at the molecular level. The R8 photoreceptor presents on its surface a ligand, Bride of Sevenless, that binds and activates Sevenless receptor tyrosine kinase in the R7 precursor. Autophosphorylated Sevenless initiates a Ras1‐mediated cascade, which eventually activates transcription factors in the nucleus via Raf1 and MAP kinases, resulting in R7 development. However, recent studies indicate that Sevenless (Sev) functions just to neuralize the cell and has no role in R7 fate determination per se. It appears that the R7 fate may represent the lowest rung of a ‘neuronal ground state’, which is attained without any specific inductive cue. It is plausible that the R7 precursor is actively prevented from taking on the neuronal fate and this inhibition is removed by activation of Sev.
ASJC Scopus subject areas