Slit and Robo regulate dendrite branching and elongation of space-filling neurons in Drosophila.
Space-filling neurons extensively sample their receptive fields with fine dendritic branches. In this study we show that a member of the conserved Robo receptor family, Robo, and its ligand Slit regulate the dendritic differentiation of space-filling neurons. Loss of Robo or Slit function leads to faster elongating and less branched dendrites of the complex and space-filling class IV multi-dendritic dendrite-arborization (md-da) neurons in the Drosophila embryonic peripheral nervous system, but not of the simpler class I neurons. The total dendrite length of Class IV neurons is not modified in robo or slit mutant embryos. Robo mediates this process cell-autonomously. Upon Robo over-expression in md-da neurons the dendritic tree is simplified and time-lapse analysis during larval stages indicates that this is due to reduction in the number of newly formed branches. We propose that Slit, through Robo, provides an extrinsic signal to coordinate the growth rate and the branching level of space-filling neurons, thus allowing them to appropriately cover their target field.