Sensitive periods for abnormal patterning on a leg segment in Drosophila melanogaster

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The development of a leg segment of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster was analyzed in order to determine whether the orderliness of the segment's bristle pattern originates via waves of cellular interactions, such as those that organize the retina. Fly development was perturbed at specific times by either teratogenic agents (gamma rays, heat shock, or the drug mitomycin C) or temperature-sensitive mutations (l(1)63, l(1) Notchts1, or l(1) shibirets1), and the resulting abnormalities (e.g., missing or extra structures) were mapped within the pattern area. If bristles develop in a linear sequence across the pattern, then they should show sensitivity to perturbations in the same order, and wavefronts of cuticular defects should result. Contrary to this prediction, the maps reveal no evidence for any directional waves of sensitivity. Nevertheless, other clues were uncovered as to the nature and timing of patterning events. Chemosensory bristles show earlier sensitivities than mechanosensory bristles, and longer bristles precede shorter ones. The types and sequence of cuticular abnormalities imply the following stages of bristle pattern development: (1) scattered inception of bristle mother cells, each surrounded by an inhibitory field, (2) alignment of the mother cells into rows, (3) differential mitoses, (4) assignment of cuticular fates to the mitotic progeny, (5) polytenization of the bristle cells, (6) fine-tuning adjustments in bristle spacing, and (7) signalling from bristle cells to adjacent epidermal cells, inducing them to form "bracts".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-47
Number of pages17
JournalRouxs Archives of Developmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1990


  • Bristle
  • Drosophila
  • Gamma rays
  • Heat shock
  • Mitomycin C
  • Pattern formation


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