Fruit-flies shed light on muscle degeneration
25 May 2012
Metamorphosis is an incredible process in biology in which an immature animal is radically transformed into an adult (think caterpillar to butterfly). Dr Taylor and his team in the School of Biosciences have examined the genetic control of this transformation in the classic model organism, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.
Studying muscle helps in understanding the maturation of a variety of specialised tissues during organism development. An intriguing process occurs in the fruit fly in which larval muscles are remodeled through cell fusion to form large and distinct specialized flight muscles of the adult.
The Taylor group has uncovered a key genetic regulator of this process called Mef2. Using sophisticated genetic “tricks” they controlled the time and place of “knocking-out” the function of the Mef2 gene. This showed that Mef2 is required at different times for both flight muscle remodeling and to prevent their degeneration.
A striking picture showing the remodelling muscle (in green) surrounded by muscle progenitor cells (pink) in the Drosophila pupa (visualized by confocal microscopy).
Dr Taylor said “The fruit fly has an impressive history of informing human biology and fundamental studies of muscle biology such as these have implications for us all. This is whether we have a muscle disease, an injury, or are simply ageing with associated muscle weakness and degeneration. Finding out how muscle is normally made and repaired is central to progress in developing treatments for these conditions.”
For more information:
Dr M Taylor
Soler C, Han J, Taylor MV. The conserved transcription factor Mef2 has multiple roles in adult Drosophila musculature formation. Development . 2012 Apr;139(7):1270-5. Epub 2012 Feb 22.