Location and connectivity of abdominal motoneurons in the embryo and larva of Drosophila melanogaster

J Neurobiol. 1991 Apr;22(3):298-311. doi: 10.1002/neu.480220309.


The soma location and peripheral connectivity of motoneurons in abdominal segments of the embryo and larva of the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster are described as an initial step in determining the mechanisms by which motoneurons make connections with their target muscles in a genetically accessible organism. Embryonic motoneuron somata were retrogradely labelled by application of the fluorescent dye, DiI, to the whole peripheral nerve or to its separate anterior or posterior fascicles in segments A5-A7 of late stage 15/early stage 16 embryos. This technique reveals a stereotyped, segmentally repeated population of 34 motoneurons per hemisegment, several of which can be individually identified from their soma position. The same set of motoneurons was revealed in third instar larvae of D. melanogaster by cobalt backfilling of abdominal peripheral nerves, although the positions of some of these neurons change during larval development. The peripheral connectivity and axon morphology of several of the abdominal motoneurons was determined by intracellular injection with Lucifer Yellow in stage 16 embryos. For the motoneurons with axons in the anterior fascicle there is no clear relationship between somata groupings and the muscle targets innervated: contrary to earlier claims, these motoneurons arborize over both ventral and dorsal muscles. Individual motoneurons possess a stereotyped pattern of terminal arborization.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Carbocyanines
  • Cobalt
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Isoquinolines
  • Larva
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscles / immunology
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Neural Pathways / physiology


  • Carbocyanines
  • Isoquinolines
  • Cobalt
  • 3,3'-dioctadecylindocarbocyanine
  • lucifer yellow