Coordinated development of muscles and tendons of the Drosophila leg

Development. 2004 Dec;131(24):6041-51. doi: 10.1242/dev.01527. Epub 2004 Nov 10.


Since Miller's morphological description, the Drosophila leg musculature and its formation has not been revisited. Here, using a set of GFP markers and confocal microscopy, we analyse Drosophila leg muscle development, and describe all the muscles and tendons present in the adult leg. Importantly, we provide for the first time evidence for tendons located internally within leg segments. By visualising muscle and tendon precursors, we demonstrate that leg muscle development is closely associated with the formation of internal tendons. In the third instars discs, in the vicinity of tendon progenitors, some Twist-positive myoblasts start to express the muscle founder cell marker dumbfounded (duf). Slightly later, in the early pupa, epithelial tendon precursors invaginate inside the developing leg segments, giving rise to the internal string-like tendons. The tendon-associated duf-lacZ-expressing muscle founders are distributed along the invaginating tendon precursors and then fuse with surrounding myoblasts to form syncytial myotubes. At mid-pupation, these myotubes grow towards their epithelial insertion sites, apodemes, and form links between internally located tendons and the leg epithelium. This leads to a stereotyped pattern of multifibre muscles that ensures movement of the adult leg.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Extremities / anatomy & histology*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Larva / anatomy & histology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Muscle Development / physiology*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Myoblasts / cytology*
  • Pupa / cytology
  • Pupa / growth & development
  • Tendons / cytology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins