Supplementary Figure S6 from Drosophila enhancer-Gal4 lines show ectopic expression during development

In Drosophila melanogaster the most widely used technique to drive gene expression is the binary UAS/Gal4 system. We show here that a set of nervous system specific enhancers (elav, D42/Toll-6, OK6/RapGAP1) display ectopic activity in epithelial tissues during development which is seldom considered in experimental studies. This ectopic activity is variable, unstable and influenced by the primary sequence of the enhancer and the insertion site in the chromosome. In addition, the ectopic activity is independent of the protein expressed, Gal4, as it is reproduced also with the expression of Gal80. Another enhancer, LN2 from the sex lethal (sxl) gene, shows sex-dependent features in its ectopic expression. Feminization of LN2 expressing males does not alter the male specific pattern indicating that the sexual dimorphism of LN2 expression is an intrinsic feature of this enhancer. Other X chromosome enhancers corresponding to genes not related to sex determination do not show sexual dimorphism in their ectopic expressions. Although variable and unstable, the ectopic activation of enhancer-Gal4 lines seems to be regulated in terms of tissue and intensity. To characterize the full domain of expression of enhancer-Gal4 constructs is relevant for the design of transgenic animal models and biotechnology tools, as well as for the correct interpretation of developmental and behavioural studies in which Gal4 lines are used.