The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 133 - 141 (2011)

Vol 55, Issue 2

Drosophila mechanoreceptors as a model for studying asymmetric cell division

Review | Published: 8 June 2011

Dagmara P. Furman*,1,2 and Tatyana A. Bukharina1

1Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk and 2Novosibirsk State University, Novosibirsk, Russia


Asymmetric cell division (ACD) is one of the processes creating the overall diversity of cell types in multicellular organisms. The essence of this process is that the daughter cells exit from it being different from both the parental cell and one another in their ability to further differentiation and specialization. The large bristles (macrochaetae) that are regularly arranged on the surface of the Drosophila adult function as mechanoreceptors, and since their development requires ACD, they have been extensively used as a model system for studying the genetic control of this process. Each macrochaete is composed of four specialized cells, the progeny resulting from several ACDs from a single sensory organ precursor (SOP) cell, which differentiates from the ectodermal cells of the wing imaginal disc in the third-instar larva and pupa. In this paper we review the experimental data on the genes and their products controlling the ACDs of the SOP cell and its daughter cells, and their further specialization. We discuss the main mechanisms determining the time when the cell enters ACD, as well as the mechanisms providing for the structural characteristics of asymmetric division, namely, polar distribution of protein determinants (Numb and Neuralized), orientation of the division spindle relative to these determinants, and unequal segregation of the determinants specifying the direction of daughter cell development.


gene, Drosophila, macrochaetae, sensory organ precursor cell, signaling pathway

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