Growth and size control during development

Open Biol. 2017 Nov;7(11):170190. doi: 10.1098/rsob.170190.


The size and shape of organs are characteristic for each species. Even when organisms develop to different sizes due to varying environmental conditions, such as nutrition, organ size follows species-specific rules of proportionality to the rest of the body, a phenomenon referred to as allometry. Therefore, for a given environment, organs stop growth at a predictable size set by the species's genotype. How do organs stop growth? How can related species give rise to organs of strikingly different size? No definitive answer has been given to date. One of the major models for the studies of growth termination is the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. Therefore, this review will focus mostly on work carried out in Drosophila to try to tease apart potential mechanisms and identify routes for further investigation. One general rule, found across the animal kingdom, is that the rate of growth declines with developmental time. Therefore, answers to the problem of growth termination should explain this seemingly universal fact. In addition, growth termination is intimately related to the problems of robustness (i.e. precision) and plasticity in organ size, symmetric and asymmetric organ development, and of how the 'target' size depends on extrinsic, environmental factors.

Keywords: Drosophila; growth control; growth termination; mathematical models.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Growth*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Morphogenesis*