Scaling of cytoskeletal organization with cell size in Drosophila

Mol Biol Cell. 2017 Jun 1;28(11):1519-1529. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E16-10-0691. Epub 2017 Apr 12.


Spatially organized macromolecular complexes are essential for cell and tissue function, but the mechanisms that organize micron-scale structures within cells are not well understood. Microtubule-based structures such as mitotic spindles scale with cell size, but less is known about the scaling of actin structures within cells. Actin-rich denticle precursors cover the ventral surface of the Drosophila embryo and larva and provide templates for cuticular structures involved in larval locomotion. Using quantitative imaging and statistical modeling, we demonstrate that denticle number and spacing scale with cell length over a wide range of cell sizes in embryos and larvae. Denticle number and spacing are reduced under space-limited conditions, and both features robustly scale over a 10-fold increase in cell length during larval growth. We show that the relationship between cell length and denticle spacing can be recapitulated by specific mathematical equations in embryos and larvae and that accurate denticle spacing requires an intact microtubule network and the microtubule minus end-binding protein, Patronin. These results identify a novel mechanism of micro-tubule-dependent actin scaling that maintains precise patterns of actin organization during tissue growth.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena
  • Cell Size
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Dental Pulp Calcification / metabolism
  • Dental Pulp Calcification / veterinary
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Phenotype


  • Actins
  • Drosophila Proteins