Loncle N, Williams DW (2012) An interaction screen identifies headcase as a regulator of large-scale pruning.J Neurosci 32: 17086-96
Large-scale pruning, the removal of long neuronal processes, is deployed widely within the developing nervous system and is essential for proper circuit formation. In Drosophila the dendrites of the class IV dendritic arborization sensory neuron ddaC undergo large-scale pruning by local degeneration controlled by the steroid hormone ecdysone. The molecular mechanisms that control such events are largely unknown. To identify new molecules that orchestrate this developmental degeneration, we performed a genetic interaction screen. Our approach combines the strength of Drosophila forward genetics with detailed in vivo imaging of ddaC neurons. This screen allowed us to identify headcase (hdc) as a new gene involved in dendrite pruning. hdc is evolutionarily conserved, but the protein\'s function is unknown. Here we show that hdc is expressed just before metamorphosis in sensory neurons that undergo remodeling. hdc is required in a cell-autonomous manner to control dendrite severing, the first phase of pruning. Our epistasis experiments with known regulators of dendrite pruning reveal hdc as a founding member of a new pathway downstream of ecdysone signaling.