Int. J. Dev. Biol. 66: 223 - 233 (2022)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.210203mm
© UPV/EHU Press

Expression of Hey marks a subset of enteroendocrine cells in the Drosophila embryonic and larval midgut

Emilia Skafida1,2, Christos Delidakis1,2, Maria Monastirioti1,*

1Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB), Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH), Greece, 2Department of Biology, University of Crete, Greece

ABSTRACT Hey is a conserved transcription factor of the bHLH-Orange family that participates in the response to Notch signaling in certain tissues. Whereas three Hey paralogues exist in mammalian genomes, Drosophila possesses a single Hey gene. Fly Hey is expressed in the subset of newborn neurons that receive a Notch signal to differentiate them from their sibling cells after the asymmetric division of precursors called ganglion-mother-cells. We used a polyclonal anti-Hey serum and a GFP-tagged transgenic duplication of the Hey locus to examine its expression in tissues outside the nervous system in embryos and larvae. We detected robust Hey expression in the embryonic midgut primordium at the time of birth of enteroendocrine cells, identified by expression of Prospero. Approximately half of the Pros-positive cells were also Hey positive at mid-embryogenesis. By the end of embryogenesis, most enteroendocrine cells had downregulated Hey expression, although it was still detectable at low levels after hatching. Low levels of Hey were also detected in subsets of the epithelial enterocytes at different times. Embryo enteroendocrine Hey expression was found to be Notch dependent. In late third-instar larvae, when few new enteroendocrine cells are born, novel Hey expression was detected in one cell of each sibling pair. In conclusion, Hey is strongly expressed in one of each pair of newly-born enteroendocrine cells. This is consistent with a hypothesis that embryonic enteroendocrine cells are born by an asymmetric division of a precursor, where Notch/Hey probably distinguish between the subtypes of these cells upon their differentiation.


Hey bHLH-O, enteroendocrine, midgut, Drosophila, Notch

*Corresponding author e-mail: