One of the fundamental gaps in our knowledge of how novel anatomical structures evolve is understanding the origins of the morphogenetic processes that form these features. Here, we traced the cellular development of a recently evolved morphological novelty, the posterior lobe of D. melanogaster. We found that this genital outgrowth forms through extreme increases in epithelial cell height. By examining the apical extracellular matrix (aECM), we also uncovered a vast matrix associated with the developing genitalia of lobed and non-lobed species. Expression of the aECM protein Dumpy is spatially expanded in lobe-forming species, connecting the posterior lobe to the ancestrally derived aECM network. Further analysis demonstrated that Dumpy attachments are necessary for cell height increases during posterior lobe development. We propose that the aECM presents a rich reservoir for generating morphological novelty and highlights a yet unseen role for aECM in regulating extreme cell height.
Keywords: D. melanogaster; Drosophila biarmipes; apical extracellular matrix; developmental biology; developmental evolution; evolutionary biology; genitalia; morphogenesis.
© 2020, Smith et al.