Tiling of the Drosophila epidermis by multidendritic sensory neurons

Development. 2002 Jun;129(12):2867-78.


Insect dendritic arborization (da) neurons provide an opportunity to examine how diverse dendrite morphologies and dendritic territories are established during development. We have examined the morphologies of Drosophila da neurons by using the MARCM (mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker) system. We show that each of the 15 neurons per abdominal hemisegment spread dendrites to characteristic regions of the epidermis. We place these neurons into four distinct morphological classes distinguished primarily by their dendrite branching complexities. Some class assignments correlate with known proneural gene requirements as well as with central axonal projections. Our data indicate that cells within two morphological classes partition the body wall into distinct, non-overlapping territorial domains and thus are organized as separate tiled sensory systems. The dendritic domains of cells in different classes, by contrast, can overlap extensively. We have examined the cell-autonomous roles of starry night (stan) (also known as flamingo (fmi)) and sequoia (seq) in tiling. Neurons with these genes mutated generally terminate their dendritic fields at normal locations at the lateral margin and segment border, where they meet or approach the like dendrites of adjacent neurons. However, stan mutant neurons occasionally send sparsely branched processes beyond these territories that could potentially mix with adjacent like dendrites. Together, our data suggest that widespread tiling of the larval body wall involves interactions between growing dendritic processes and as yet unidentified signals that allow avoidance by like dendrites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Dendritic Cells
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Epidermis / growth & development
  • Epidermis / innervation*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Larva
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Neurons, Afferent / classification
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*


  • Cadherins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • seq protein, Drosophila
  • stan protein, Drosophila