Insect embryos, with their relatively simple nervous systems, provide a model system with which to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying cell recognition during neuronal development. Such an approach can take advantage of the accessible cells of the grasshopper embryo and the accessible genes of Drosophila. The growth cones of identified neurons express selective affinities for specific axonal surfaces; such specificities give rise to the stereotyped patterns of selective fasciculation common to both species. These and other results suggest that early in development cell lineage and cell interactions lead to the differential expression of cell recognition molecules on the surfaces of small subsets of embryonic neurons whose axons selectively fasciculate with one another. Monoclonal antibodies reveal surface molecules in the Drosophila embryo whose expression correlates with this prediction. It should now be possible to isolate the genes encoding these potential cell recognition molecules and to test their function through the use of molecular genetic approaches in Drosophila.

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