During development, HOX genes play critical roles in the establishment of segmental differences. In the Drosophila central nervous system, these differences are manifested in the number and type of neurons generated by each neuroblast in each segment. HOX genes can act either in neuroblasts or in postmitotic cells, and either early or late in a lineage. Additionally, they can be continuously required during development or just at a specific stage. Moreover, these features are generally segment-specific. Lately, it has been shown that contrary to what happens in other tissues, where HOX genes define domains of expression, these genes are expressed in individual cells as part of the combinatorial codes involved in cell type specification. In this report we analyse the role of the Bithorax-complex genes – Ultrabithorax, abdominal-A and Abdominal-B – in sculpting the pattern of crustacean cardioactive peptide (CCAP)-expressing neurons. These neurons are widespread in invertebrates, express CCAP, Bursicon and MIP neuropeptides and play major roles in controlling ecdysis. There are two types of CCAP neuron: interneurons and efferent neurons. Our results indicate that Ultrabithorax and Abdominal-A are not necessary for specification of the CCAP-interneurons, but are absolutely required to prevent the death by apoptosis of the CCAP-efferent neurons. Furthermore, Abdominal-B controls by repression the temporal onset of neuropeptide expression in a subset of CCAP-efferent neurons, and a peak of ecdysone hormone at the end of larval life counteracts this repression. Thus, Bithorax complex genes control the developmental appearance of these neuropeptides both temporally and spatially
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