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Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2011;100:155-210. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-384878-9.00005-4.

Drosophila models of cardiac disease.

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University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has emerged as a useful model for cardiac diseases, both developmental abnormalities and adult functional impairment. Using the tools of both classical and molecular genetics, the study of the developing fly heart has been instrumental in identifying the major signaling events of cardiac field formation, cardiomyocyte specification, and the formation of the functioning heart tube. The larval stage of fly cardiac development has become an important model system for testing isolated preparations of living hearts for the effects of biological and pharmacological compounds on cardiac activity. Meanwhile, the recent development of effective techniques to study adult cardiac performance in the fly has opened new uses for the Drosophila model system. The fly system is now being used to study long-term alterations in adult performance caused by factors such as diet, exercise, and normal aging. The fly is a unique and valuable system for the study of such complex, long-term interactions, as it is the only invertebrate genetic model system with a working heart developmentally homologous to the vertebrate heart. Thus, the fly model combines the advantages of invertebrate genetics (such as large populations, facile molecular genetic techniques, and short lifespan) with physiological measurement techniques that allow meaningful comparisons with data from vertebrate model systems. As such, the fly model is well situated to make important contributions to the understanding of complicated interactions between environmental factors and genetics in the long-term regulation of cardiac performance.

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