Dynamics of heart differentiation, visualized utilizing heart enhancer elements of the Drosophila melanogaster bHLH transcription factor Hand

Gene Expr Patterns. 2006 Apr;6(4):360-75. doi: 10.1016/j.modgep.2005.09.012. Epub 2006 Feb 7.


Drosophila melanogaster has become one of the important model systems to investigate the development and differentiation of the heart. After 24h after egg deposition (h AED), a simple tube-like organ is formed, consisting of essentially only two cell types, the contractile cardioblasts and non-myogenic pericardial cells. In contrast to the detailed knowledge of heart formation during embryogenesis, only a few studies deal with later changes in heart morphology and/or function. This is mainly due to the difficulties to carry out whole mount stainings in later stages without complicated dissections or treatments of the cuticle and puparium. In this paper we describe the identification of a hand genomic region, which is fully sufficient to drive GFP expression in heart cells of embryos, larvae, and adults. This serves as an initial step to understand the position of hand in the early regulatory network in heart development. Furthermore, we demonstrate that our newly created GFP reporter line is extremely useful to study postembryonic heart differentiation. For the first time we document heart differentiation in living animals throughout all developmental stages of Drosophila melanogaster, including embryogenesis, all three larval stages, metamorphosis, and the adult life with respect to pericardial cells and cardiomyocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Heart / embryology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Lac Operon
  • Larva
  • Metamorphosis, Biological
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Pupa
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Hand protein, Drosophila
  • Insect Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins