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Gene. 2002 Apr 3;287(1-2):55-66.

Tracheal development in Drosophila melanogaster as a model system for studying the development of a branched organ.

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Abteilung Zellbiologie, Biozentrum der Universit├Ąt Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 70, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


The development of the tracheal system of Drosophila melanogaster represents a paradigm for studying the molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of a branched tubular network. Tracheogenesis has been characterized at the morphological, cellular and genetic level and a series of successive, but linked events have been described as the basis for the formation of the complex network of tubules which extend over the entire organism. Tracheal cells stop to divide early in the process of tracheogenesis and the formation of the interconnected network requires highly controlled cell migration events and cell shape changes. A number of genes involved in these two processes have been identified but in order to obtain a more complete view of branching morphogenesis, many more genes carrying essential functions have to be isolated and characterized. Here, we provide a progress report on our attempts to identify further genes expressed in the tracheal system. We show that empty spiracles (ems), a head gap gene, is required for the formation of a specific tracheal branch, the visceral branch. We also identified a Sulfotransferase and a Multiple Inositol Polyphosphate phosphatase that are strongly upregulated in tracheal cells and discuss their possible involvement in tracheal development.

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