A cell atlas of adult muscle precursors uncovers early events in fibre-type divergence in Drosophila

EMBO Rep. 2020 Oct 5;21(10):e49555. doi: 10.15252/embr.201949555. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


In Drosophila, the wing disc-associated muscle precursor cells give rise to the fibrillar indirect flight muscles (IFM) and the tubular direct flight muscles (DFM). To understand early transcriptional events underlying this muscle diversification, we performed single-cell RNA-sequencing experiments and built a cell atlas of myoblasts associated with third instar larval wing disc. Our analysis identified distinct transcriptional signatures for IFM and DFM myoblasts that underlie the molecular basis of their divergence. The atlas further revealed various states of differentiation of myoblasts, thus illustrating previously unappreciated spatial and temporal heterogeneity among them. We identified and validated novel markers for both IFM and DFM myoblasts at various states of differentiation by immunofluorescence and genetic cell-tracing experiments. Finally, we performed a systematic genetic screen using a panel of markers from the reference cell atlas as an entry point and found a novel gene, Amalgam which is functionally important in muscle development. Our work provides a framework for leveraging scRNA-seq for gene discovery and details a strategy that can be applied to other scRNA-seq datasets.

Keywords: differentiation; muscle; single cell; transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins* / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila* / genetics
  • Muscle Development / genetics
  • Wings, Animal


  • Drosophila Proteins

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE138626