Flying Power Packs
The fruit fly can demonstrate various behaviors such as crawling, running or flying. This is possible because fruit flies have different types of muscles. With the aid of diverse methods, Frank Schnorrer and his colleagues want to decode how the muscles of the fruit fly develop and function.
Everybody knows the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster that is merely a few millimetres long. It is also one of the most important genetic model organisms. Thanks to a complex network of muscles, tendons and the exterior skeleton, the fruit fly is able to demonstrate different behaviors: crawl as a larva, slip out of a pupa, run, mate, eat and, first of all, fly. Via targeted gene modifications the scientists in the research group of Frank Schnorrer investigate how the muscles of the fruit fly develop at the right place in the body and how they grow to their correct size.
Muscle formation visualized
With the aid of imaging procedures, the scientists can study muscle dynamics in time lapse: First, the precursors of muscle fibers (myoblasts) are built, which then fuse to form so-called myotubes. The myotubes migrate to their target site and bind there with cells of the tendons to become the external skeleton. Schnorrer could already show that the protein Kon-tiki is essential for the target site search of the myotubes. It is situated at the tip of the myotubes which – with the aid of this protein – recognize the tendon cells and bind stably to them.
Investigating muscle diseases on the fly
By performing more than 25,000 flight tests, the scientists identified around 2,000 genes that have a function in fly muscles. Many of the identified genes are supposedly also needed for normal muscle function in humans. Given that genetic changes often lead to degenerative muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy, in the future the results could also play an important role in medicine.