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drosophila antennae

Growing Sense of Smell

A fruitfly's sense of smell relies on a diverse set of receptor neurons along its antennae. As an embryonic fruitfly develops, 50 different classes of receptors are built from precursor cells, taking different final forms based on gene expression patterns. In a Dec. 2013 paper in Current Biology, the lab of Pelin Volkan, assistant professor of biology and member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, explains the logic of a combinatorial code that creates those gene expression patterns. In these two panels from the work, researchers were able to watch as a population of cells blossomed into a sensory organ over a 4-hour interval.