by Elise Cau, Brice Ronsin, Laurianne Bessière, Patrick Blader
Neural progenitors produce neurons whose identities can vary as a function of the time that specification occurs. Here, we describe the heterochronic specification of two photoreceptor (PhR) subtypes in the zebrafish pineal gland. We find that accelerating PhR specification by impairing Notch signaling favors the early fate at the expense of the later fate. Using in vivo lineage tracing, we show that most pineal PhRs are born from a fate-restricted progenitor. Furthermore, sister cells derived from the division of PhR-restricted progenitors activate the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway at different times after division, and this heterochrony requires Notch activity. Finally, we demonstrate that PhR identity is established as a function of when the BMP pathway is activated. We propose a novel model in which division of a progenitor with restricted potential generates sister cells with distinct identities via a temporal asymmetry in the activation of a signaling pathway.