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Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2015 Jul-Aug;4(4):357-75. doi: 10.1002/wdev.182. Epub 2015 Feb 27.

Specification of the somatic musculature in Drosophila.

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Program in Developmental Biology, Sloan Kettering Institute, New York, NY, USA.
Cell and Developmental Biology, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Cornell University, New York, NY, USA.


The somatic muscle system formed during Drosophila embryogenesis is required for larvae to hatch, feed, and crawl. This system is replaced in the pupa by a new adult muscle set, responsible for activities such as feeding, walking, and flight. Both the larval and adult muscle systems are comprised of distinct muscle fibers to serve these specific motor functions. In this way, the Drosophila musculature is a valuable model for patterning within a single tissue: while all muscle cells share properties such as the contractile apparatus, properties such as size, position, and number of nuclei are unique for a particular muscle. In the embryo, diversification of muscle fibers relies first on signaling cascades that pattern the mesoderm. Subsequently, the combinatorial expression of specific transcription factors leads muscle fibers to adopt particular sizes, shapes, and orientations. Adult muscle precursors (AMPs), set aside during embryonic development, proliferate during the larval phases and seed the formation of the abdominal, leg, and flight muscles in the adult fly. Adult muscle fibers may either be formed de novo from the fusion of the AMPs, or are created by the binding of AMPs to an existing larval muscle. While less is known about adult muscle specification compared to the larva, expression of specific transcription factors is also important for its diversification. Increasingly, the mechanisms required for the diversification of fly muscle have found parallels in vertebrate systems and mark Drosophila as a robust model system to examine questions about how diverse cell types are generated within an organism.

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