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Curr Biol. 2004 Jun 22;14(12):1047-55.

Mutual exclusion of sensory bristles and tendons on the notum of dipteran flies.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, United Kingdom.



Genes of the achaete-scute complex encode transcription factors whose activity regulates the development of neural cells. The spatially restricted expression of achaete-scute on the mesonotum of higher flies governs the development and positioning of the large sensory bristles. On the scutum the bristles are arranged into conserved patterns, based on an ancestral arrangement of four longitudinal rows. This pattern appears to date back to the origin of cyclorraphous flies about 100-140 million years ago. The origin of the four-row bauplan, which is independent of body size, and the reasons for its conservation, are not known.


We report that tendons for attachment of the indirect flight muscles are invariably located between the bristle rows of the scutum throughout the Diptera. Tendon development depends on the activity of a transcription factor encoded by the gene stripe. In Drosophila, stripe and achaete-scute have separate expression domains, leading to spatial segregation of tendon precursors and bristle precursors. Furthermore the products of these genes act antagonistically: ectopic sr expression prevents bristle development and ectopic sc expression prevents normal muscle attachment. The product of stripe acts downstream of Achaete-Scute and interferes with the development of bristle precursors.


The pattern of flight muscles has changed little throughout the Diptera and we argue that the sites of muscle attachment may have constrained the positioning of bristles during the course of evolution. This could account for the pattern of four bristle rows on the scutum.

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