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Development. 2004 Jan;131(1):83-92. Epub 2003 Nov 26.

Integration of complex larval chemosensory organs into the adult nervous system of Drosophila.

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Department of Biology and Program in Neuroscience, University of Fribourg, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland.


The sense organs of adult Drosophila, and holometabolous insects in general, derive essentially from imaginal discs and hence are adult specific. Experimental evidence presented here, however, suggests a different developmental design for the three largely gustatory sense organs located along the pharynx. In a comprehensive cellular analysis, we show that the posteriormost of the three organs derives directly from a similar larval organ and that the two other organs arise by splitting of a second larval organ. Interestingly, these two larval organs persist despite extensive reorganization of the pharynx. Thus, most of the neurons of the three adult organs are surviving larval neurons. However, the anterior organ includes some sensilla that are generated during pupal stages. Also, we observe apoptosis in a third larval pharyngeal organ. Hence, our experimental data show for the first time the integration of complex, fully differentiated larval sense organs into the nervous system of the adult fly and demonstrate the embryonic origin of their neurons. Moreover, they identify metamorphosis of this sensory system as a complex process involving neuronal persistence, generation of additional neurons and neuronal death. Our conclusions are based on combined analysis of reporter expression from P[GAL4] driver lines, horseradish peroxidase injections into blastoderm stage embryos, cell labeling via heat-shock-induced flip-out in the embryo, bromodeoxyuridine birth dating and staining for programmed cell death. They challenge the general view that sense organs are replaced during metamorphosis.

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