It takes guts: the Drosophila hindgut as a model system for organogenesis

Dev Biol. 2002 Mar 1;243(1):1-19. doi: 10.1006/dbio.2002.0577.


The Drosophila hindgut is fruitful territory for investigation of events common to many types of organogenesis. The development of the Drosophila hindgut provides, in microcosm, a genetic model system for studying processes such as establishment (patterning) of an epithelial primordium, its internalization by gastrulation, development of left--right asymmetric looping, patterning in both the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes, innervation, investment of an epithelium with mesoderm, reciprocal epitheliomesenchymal interactions, cell shape change, and cell rearrangement. We review the genetic control of these processes during development of the Drosophila hindgut, and compare these to related processes in other bilaterians, particularly vertebrates. We propose that caudal/Cdx, brachyenteron/Brachyury, fork head/HNF-3, and wingless/Wnt constitute a conserved "cassette" of genes expressed in the blastopore and later in the gut, involved in posterior patterning, cell rearrangement, and gut maintenance. Elongation of the internalized Drosophila hindgut primordium is similar to elongation of the archenteron and also of the entire embryonic axis (both during and after gastrulation), as well as of various tubules (e.g., nephric ducts, Malpighian tubules), as it is driven by cell rearrangement. The genes drumstick, bowl, and lines (which encode putative transcriptional regulators) are required for this cell rearrangement, as well as for spatially localized gene expression required to establish the three morphologically distinct subregions of the hindgut. Expression of signaling molecules regulated by drumstick, bowl, and lines, in particular of the JAK/STAT activator Unpaired at the hindgut anterior, may play a role in controlling hindgut cell rearrangement. Other cell signaling molecules expressed in the hindgut epithelium are required to establish its normal size (Dpp and Hh), and to establish and maintain the hindgut visceral mesoderm (Wg and Hh). Both maternal gene activity and zygotic gene activity are required for asymmetric left--right looping of the hindgut. Some of the same genes (caudal and brachyenteron) required for embryonic hindgut development also act during pupation to construct a new hindgut from imaginal cells. Application of the plethora of genetic techniques available in Drosophila, including forward genetic screens, should identify additional genes controlling hindgut development and thus shed light on a variety of common morphogenetic processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning*
  • Digestive System / embryology*
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Embryonic Induction
  • Gastrula / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental