Fly Development

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Fly animation.gif


Drosophila melanogaster drawing

This page introduces the fly, drosophila, as a developmental model organism. The small drosophila fruitfly has been used by genetisists for many years now and much is now understood about its development in relation to gene expression and regulatory mechanisms.

In recent years, using developmental mutants, many mechanisms of development in the fly have been shown to be almost identical to those seen in humans and other animals. In fact, these developmental mechanisms have become the "paradigm" for our understanding of development.

The fruitfly (drosophila) was and is the traditional geneticist's tool. It has been transformed to an magnificent tool for the embryologist, with many developmental mechanisms being uncovered in this system combined with homolgy gene searches in other species.

Drosophila researchers have received to date received 5 Nobel prizes (1933, 1995, 2011). The most recent in 2011 "for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity".

There is also a difference in basic body structure between males and females, males lack the seventh abdominal segment (A7) present in females. This has recently been shown to be due to a down-regulation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activity and fewer histoblasts in the male A7 in the early pupae.[1]

Fly Links: ANAT2341 Project (2009) | Homeobox | Category:Fly

Some Recent Findings

Scanning EM of adult fly head
  • High throughput in vivo functional validation of candidate congenital heart disease genes in Drosophila[2] "We developed a Drosophila-based functional system to screen candidate disease genes identified from Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) patients. 134 genes were tested in the Drosophila heart using RNAi-based gene silencing. Quantitative analyses of multiple cardiac phenotypes demonstrated essential structural, functional, and developmental roles for more than 70 genes, including a subgroup encoding histone H3K4 modifying proteins. We also demonstrated the use of Drosophila to evaluate cardiac phenotypes resulting from specific, patient-derived alleles of candidate disease genes. We describe the first high throughput in vivo validation system to screen candidate disease genes identified from patients." Cardiovascular System - Abnormalities
  • Lineage-associated tracts defining the anatomy of the drosophila first instar larval brain[3] "Fixed lineages derived from unique, genetically specified neuroblasts form the anatomical building blocks of the Drosophila brain. Neurons belonging to the same lineage project their axons in a common tract, which is labeled by neuronal markers. In this paper, we present a detailed atlas of the lineage-associated tracts forming the brain of the early Drosophila larva, based on the use of global markers (anti-Neuroglian, anti-Neurotactin, Inscuteable-Gal4>UAS-chRFP-Tub) and lineage-specific reporters. We describe 68 discrete fiber bundles that contain axons of one lineage or pairs/small sets of adjacent lineages. Bundles enter the neuropil at invariant locations, the lineage tract entry portals. Within the neuropil, these fiber bundles form larger fascicles that can be classified, by their main orientation, into longitudinal, transverse, and vertical (ascending/descending) fascicles. We present 3D digital models of lineage tract entry portals and neuropil fascicles, set into relationship to commonly used, easily recognizable reference structures such as the mushroom body, the antennal lobe, the optic lobe, and the Fasciclin II-positive fiber bundles that connect the brain and ventral nerve cord. Correspondences and differences between early larval tract anatomy and the previously described late larval and adult lineage patterns are highlighted."
  • Development of the imaginal wing disc[4] "LIM-HD gene tailup (islet), together with the HD genes of the iroquois complex, specify the notum territory of the disc. Later, tailup has been shown to act as a prepattern gene that antagonizes formation of sensory bristles on the notum of this fly. ...We conclude that tailup acts on bristle development by several, even antagonistic, mechanisms."
  • The four-dimensional pattern of fly neuron development[5] "We show that segment-specific generation of the Ap cluster neurons is achieved by the integration of the anteroposterior and temporal cues in several different ways. Generation of the Ap neurons in abdominal segments is prevented by anteroposterior cues stopping the cell cycle in the stem cell at an early stage. In brain segments, late-born neurons are generated, but are differently specified due to the presence of different anteroposterior and temporal cues. Finally, in thoracic segments, the temporal and spatial cues integrate on a highly limited set of target genes to specify the Ap cluster neurons."
  • Heart Development[6]"We used an optical coherence tomography imaging technique that provided images similar to echocardiography in humans to measure the cardiac function in adult flies. We identified mutants in members of the rhomboid protease family and epidermal growth factor receptor that cause an enlarged cardiac chamber. Interestingly, abnormalities in the function of members of the epidermal growth factor receptor family in humans that undergo certain chemotherapies are associated with the development of dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Our results suggest that epidermal growth factor receptor signaling may be an evolutionarily conserved pathway that is necessary to maintain normal adult cardiac function."
More recent papers
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This table shows an automated computer PubMed search using the listed sub-heading term.

  • Therefore the list of references do not reflect any editorial selection of material based on content or relevance.
  • References appear in this list based upon the date of the actual page viewing.

References listed on the rest of the content page and the associated discussion page (listed under the publication year sub-headings) do include some editorial selection based upon both relevance and availability.

Links: References | Discussion Page | Pubmed Most Recent | Journal Searches

Search term: Drosophila Development

Sami H Jezzini, Amelia Merced, Jonathan M Blagburn Shaking-B misexpression increases the formation of gap junctions but not chemical synapses between auditory sensory neurons and the giant fiber of Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE: 2018, 13(8);e0198710 PubMed 30118493

Roman V Frolov, Esa-Ville Immonen, Paulus Saari, Päivi H Torkkeli, Hongxia Liu, Andrew S French ##Title## J. Gen. Physiol.: 2018; PubMed 30115661

Jill R Crittenden, Efthimios M C Skoulakis, Elliott S Goldstein, Ronald L Davis ##Title## Biol Open: 2018; PubMed 30115617

Felipe Berti Valer, Maiaro Cabral Rosa Machado, Rui Milton Patrício Silva-Junior, Ricardo Guelerman Pinheiro Ramos Expression of Hbs, Kirre and Rst during Drosophila ovarian development. Genesis: 2018; PubMed 30114331

Elena Drosopoulou, Dimitris Vlastos, Ioanna Efthimiou, Paraskevi Kyrizaki, Sofia Tsamadou, Maria Anagnostopoulou, Danai Kofidou, Maxim Gavriilidis, Despoina Mademtzoglou, Penelope Mavragani-Tsipidou In vitro and in vivo evaluation of the genotoxic and antigenotoxic potential of the major Chios mastic water constituents. Sci Rep: 2018, 8(1);12200 PubMed 30111795


melanogaster group

Taxonomy Id: 32346 Rank: species group

Genetic code: Translation table 1 (Standard) Mitochondrial genetic code: Translation table 5 Lineage( abbreviated ): Eukaryota; Metazoa; Arthropoda; Tracheata; Hexapoda; Insecta; Pterygota; Neoptera; Endopterygota; Diptera; Brachycera; Muscomorpha; Ephydroidea; Drosophilidae; Drosophila


The drosophila lifespan varies with temperature and is about 30 days at 29 °C.

A series of papers published between 1976 to 1979 by Turner and Mahowald, characterised the stages of drosophila development in beautiful scanning electron microscope (SEM) images.[7][8][9]

Hox Genes

Fly wild-type head.jpg Fly antennapedia head.jpg
Fly wild-type head[10] Fly antennapedia mutant head[10]

This is the classic mutation that gave rise to the discovery of Hox genes and other genes related to body pattern formation. In this mutant during development the fly embryo incorrectly positioned where (antenna) should have be two legs (pedia)[10]. The discovery of this mutant in Walter Gehring's lab opened up the field of developmental genes and this field has been rewarded with the 1995 Nobel prize in Medicine.

Links: Hox | 1995 Nobel Prize

Hippo Genes

The Hippo (Hpo) pathway, first identified in Drosophila, controls organ size by regulating cell proliferation (inhibition) and apoptosis (induction). In contrast, the TOR signalling pathway regulates organ size by stimulating cell growth, thus increasing cell size.

Fly Phenotype (dorsal view head thorax SEM)
Fly Hippo-type dorsal view head thorax SEM.jpg Fly WT dorsal view head thorax SEM.jpg
Hippo-type (hpo) Wild-type (WT)
Image source[11]
Links: Developmental Signals - Hippo

Neural Development

Summary of neural development from neural stem cell population and the gene regulation involved.[5]

Fly neural development 01.png


  1. David Foronda, Paloma Martín, Ernesto Sánchez-Herrero Drosophila Hox and sex-determination genes control segment elimination through EGFR and extramacrochetae activity. PLoS Genet.: 2012, 8(8);e1002874 PubMed 22912593
  2. Jun-Yi Zhu, Yulong Fu, Margaret Nettleton, Adam Richman, Zhe Han High throughput in vivo functional validation of candidate congenital heart disease genes in Drosophila. Elife: 2017, 6; PubMed 28084990 eLife
  3. Volker Hartenstein, Amelia Younossi-Hartenstein, Jennifer Lovick, Angel Kong, Jaison Omoto, Kathy Ngo, Gudrun Viktorin Lineage-associated tracts defining the anatomy of the drosophila first instar larval brain. Dev. Biol.: 2015; PubMed 26141956
  4. Joaquín de Navascués, Juan Modolell The pronotum LIM-HD gene tailup is both a positive and a negative regulator of the proneural genes achaete and scute of Drosophila. Mech. Dev.: 2010, 127(9-12);393-406 PubMed 20580820
  5. 5.0 5.1 Daniel Karlsson, Magnus Baumgardt, Stefan Thor Segment-specific neuronal subtype specification by the integration of anteroposterior and temporal cues. PLoS Biol.: 2010, 8(5);e1000368 PubMed 20485487 | PLoS
  6. Lin Yu, Teresa Lee, Na Lin, Matthew J Wolf Affecting Rhomboid-3 function causes a dilated heart in adult Drosophila. PLoS Genet.: 2010, 6(5);e1000969 PubMed 20523889
  7. F R Turner, A P Mahowald Scanning electron microscopy of Drosophila embryogenesis. 1. The structure of the egg envelopes and the formation of the cellular blastoderm. Dev. Biol.: 1976, 50(1);95-108 PubMed 817949
  8. F R Turner, A P Mahowald Scanning electron microscopy of Drosophila melanogaster embryogenesis. II. Gastrulation and segmentation. Dev. Biol.: 1977, 57(2);403-16 PubMed 406152
  9. P R Alper Letter: Lawsuit motivation. J Leg Med (N Y): 1975, 3(10);7 PubMed 1081572
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 F R Turner, A P Mahowald Scanning electron microscopy of Drosophila melanogaster embryogenesis. III. Formation of the head and caudal segments. Dev. Biol.: 1979, 68(1);96-109 PubMed 108157
  11. Randy Johnson, Georg Halder The two faces of Hippo: targeting the Hippo pathway for regenerative medicine and cancer treatment. Nat Rev Drug Discov: 2014, 13(1);63-79 PubMed 24336504 | Nat Rev Drug Discov.


Developmental Dynamics

Journal of Neurobiology

Online Textbooks

Molecular Biology of the Cell (4th Edn) Alberts, Bruce; Johnson, Alexander; Lewis, Julian; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Walter, Peter. New York: Garland Publishing; 2002.

Developmental Biology (6th Edn) Gilbert, Scott F. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates, Inc.; c2000.

Search NLM Online Textbooks- "drosophila development" : Molecular Biology of the Cell | Molecular Cell Biology | The Cell- A molecular Approach


Wael Tadros, Howard D Lipshitz Setting the stage for development: mRNA translation and stability during oocyte maturation and egg activation in Drosophila. Dev. Dyn.: 2005, 232(3);593-608 PubMed 15704150

Wayne Pereanu, Volker Hartenstein Digital three-dimensional models of Drosophila development. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev.: 2004, 14(4);382-91 PubMed 15261654

Matthew G Voas, Ilaria Rebay Signal integration during development: insights from the Drosophila eye. Dev. Dyn.: 2004, 229(1);162-75 PubMed 14699588

Katrin Weigmann, Robert Klapper, Thomas Strasser, Christof Rickert, Gerd Technau, Herbert Jäckle, Wilfried Janning, Christian Klämbt FlyMove--a new way to look at development of Drosophila. Trends Genet.: 2003, 19(6);310-1 PubMed 12801722


Alexander W Shingleton, Jayatri Das, Lucio Vinicius, David L Stern The temporal requirements for insulin signaling during development in Drosophila. PLoS Biol.: 2005, 3(9);e289 PubMed 16086608

Search PubMed

Search Aug2005 "drosophila development" 13228 reference articles of which 1899 were reviews.

Search Pubmed: fly development | drosophila development

External Links

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There are a number of excellent internet resources for Fly development.

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2018, August 21) Embryology Fly Development. Retrieved from

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