Ever since Darwin, biologists have marveled at the intricate design of the eye. The development of this complex sensory system involves cell-cell signaling, cell fate determination, cell rearrangements, and neural circuit assembly.
In NYU Langone’s Treisman Lab, our model system, the fruit fly Drosophila, offers powerful genetic methods with which to uncover the mechanisms that drive these processes. Progenitor cells in the developing fly eye can take on different fates depending on the transcription factors they express and the signals they receive.
We are studying how these intrinsic and extrinsic factors interact to produce photoreceptors and their support cells in a stereotyped sequence. Later in development, we examine how junctions are remodeled as cells in the retinal epithelium change their shapes and positions to form a highly organized lattice.
Photoreceptor axons must connect with the correct synaptic partner neurons to form a functional visual circuit. We have identified molecules that act within the ultraviolet-sensitive photoreceptors to guide them to form the right connections, and are investigating cues that give the target region its spatial coordinates.
Finally, we are interested in how the non-neuronal cells of the retina produce a curved corneal lens that can focus light onto the photoreceptors. Although each fly lens is much smaller and simpler than the mammalian cornea, our findings suggest that their development shares some of the same molecular mechanisms.
Jessica E. Treisman, PhD
Professor, Department of Cell Biology
NYU Grossman School of Medicine
540–562 First Avenue, Fourth Floor, Lab 9
New York, NY 10016