Cell fate in the nervous system is determined by environmental signals and/or heredity. They can be referred to as extrinsic and intrinsic determinants, respectively. The molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying these processes are well conserved from invertebrates to vertebrates. We have identified both types of determinants through the intensive screening of P-element-induced Drosophila mutants affected in neural development. As a member of the first category, argos gene product which regulates cell-cell interaction in the developing nervous system gives a good example. As a member of the second category, we refer to Drosophila musashi gene encoding a neural RNA-binding protein. The functions of these gene products and application to the mammalian nervous system will be discussed.
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