The lens in focus: a comparison of lens development in Drosophila and vertebrates

  • Mark Charlton-Perkins
  • Nadean L. Brown
  • Tiffany A. Cook


The evolution of the eye has been a major subject of study dating back centuries. The advent of molecular genetics offered the surprising finding that morphologically distinct eyes rely on conserved regulatory gene networks for their formation. While many of these advances often stemmed from studies of the compound eye of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and later translated to discoveries in vertebrate systems, studies on vertebrate lens development far outnumber those in Drosophila. This may be largely historical, since Spemann and Mangold’s paradigm of tissue induction was discovered in the amphibian lens. Recent studies on lens development in Drosophila have begun to define molecular commonalities with the vertebrate lens. Here, we provide an overview of Drosophila lens development, discussing intrinsic and extrinsic factors controlling lens cell specification and differentiation. We then summarize key morphological and molecular events in vertebrate lens development, emphasizing regulatory factors and networks strongly associated with both systems. Finally, we provide a comparative analysis that highlights areas of research that would help further clarify the degree of conservation between the formation of dioptric systems in invertebrates and vertebrates.


Semper cell Corneagenous Fiber cell Cone cell Corneal lens 



Cone cell


Primary pigment cell


Morphogenetic furrow


Second mitotic wave


Interommatidial cell


Secondary pigment cell


Tertiary pigment cell




Presumptive lens ectoderm


Anterior epithelial layer


Planar cell polarity


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Charlton-Perkins
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nadean L. Brown
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tiffany A. Cook
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Divisions of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Developmental BiologyCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Molecular and Developmental Biology Graduate ProgramUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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