Epithelial tubular organs are essential for life in higher organisms and include the pancreas and other secretory organs that function as biological factories for the synthesis and delivery of secreted enzymes, hormones, and nutrients essential for tissue homeostasis and viability. The lungs, which are necessary for gas exchange, vocalization, and maintaining blood pH, are organized as highly branched tubular epithelia. Tubular organs include arteries, veins, and lymphatics, high-speed passageways for delivery and uptake of nutrients, liquids, gases, and immune cells. The kidneys and components of the reproductive system are also epithelial tubes. Both the heart and central nervous system of many vertebrates begin as epithelial tubes. Thus, it is not surprising that defects in tube formation and maintenance underlie many human diseases. Accordingly, a thorough understanding how tubes form and are maintained is essential to developing better diagnostics and therapeutics. Among the best-characterized tubular organs are the Drosophila salivary gland and trachea, organs whose relative simplicity have allowed for in depth analysis of gene function, yielding key mechanistic insight into tube initiation, remodeling and maintenance. Here, we review our current understanding of salivary gland and trachea formation - highlighting recent discoveries into how these organs attain their final form and function.
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