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J Morphol. 2005 Apr;264(1):117-30.

Involvement of chitin in exoskeleton morphogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abteilung Genetik, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Exoskeletons stabilize cell, tissue, and body morphology in many living organisms including fungi, plants, and arthropods. In insects, the exoskeleton, the cuticle, is produced by epidermal cells as a protein extracellular matrix containing lipids and the polysaccharide chitin, and its formation requires coordinated synthesis, distribution, and modification of these components. Eventually, the stepwise secretion and sorting of the cuticle material results in a layered structure comprising the envelope, the proteinaceous epicuticle, and the chitinous procuticle. To study the role of chitin during cuticle development, we analyzed the consequences of chitin absence in the embryo of Drosophila melanogaster caused by mutations in the Chitin Synthase-1 (CS-1) gene, called krotzkopf verkehrt (kkv). Our histological data confirm that chitin is essential for procuticle integrity and further demonstrate that an intact procuticle is important to assemble and to stabilize the chitin-less epicuticle. Moreover, the phenotype of CS-1/kkv mutant embryos indicates that chitin is required to attach the cuticle to the epidermal cells, thereby maintaining epidermal morphology. Finally, sclerotization and pigmentation, which are the last steps in cuticle differentiation, are impaired in tissues lacking CS-1/kkv function, suggesting that proper cuticle structure is crucial for the activity of the underlying enzymes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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