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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2012;98:277-301. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386499-4.00011-2.

Diversification of muscle types in Drosophila: upstream and downstream of identity genes.

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GReD INSERM UMR1103, CNRS UMR6293, University of Clermont-Ferrand, Clermont-Ferrand, France.


Understanding gene regulatory pathways underlying diversification of cell types during development is one of the major challenges in developmental biology. Progressive specification of mesodermal lineages that are at the origin of body wall muscles in Drosophila embryos has been extensively studied during past years, providing an attractive framework for dissecting cell type diversification processes. In particular, it has been found that muscle founder cells that are at the origin of individual muscles display specific expression of transcription factors that control diversification of muscle types. These factors, encoded by genes collectively called muscle identity genes, are activated in discrete subsets of muscle founders. As a result, each founder cell is thought to carry a unique combinatorial code of identity gene expression. Considering this, to define temporally and spatially restricted expression of identity genes, a set of coordinated upstream regulatory inputs is required. But also, to realize the identity program and to form specific muscle types with distinct properties, an efficient battery of downstream identity gene targets needs to be activated. Here we review how the specificity of expression and action of muscle identity genes is acquired.

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