An acytokinetic cell division creates PIP2-enriched membrane asymmetries leading to slit diaphragm assembly in Drosophila nephrocytes

Development. 2023 Sep 15;150(18):dev201708. doi: 10.1242/dev.201708. Epub 2023 Sep 18.


Vertebrate podocytes and Drosophila nephrocytes display slit diaphragms, specialised cell junctions that are essential for the execution of the basic excretory function of ultrafiltration. To elucidate the mechanisms of slit diaphragm assembly we have studied their formation in Drosophila embryonic garland nephrocytes. These cells of mesenchymal origin lack overt apical-basal polarity. We find that their initial membrane symmetry is broken by an acytokinetic cell division that generates PIP2-enriched domains at their equator. The PIP2-enriched equatorial cortex becomes a favourable domain for hosting slit diaphragm proteins and the assembly of the first slit diaphragms. Indeed, when this division is either prevented or forced to complete cytokinesis, the formation of diaphragms is delayed to larval stages. Furthermore, although apical polarity determinants also accumulate at the equatorial cortex, they do not appear to participate in the recruitment of slit diaphragm proteins. The mechanisms we describe allow the acquisition of functional nephrocytes in embryos, which may confer on them a biological advantage similar to the formation of the first vertebrate kidney, the pronephros.

Keywords: Drosophila; Acytokinetic cell division; Membrane symmetry breaking; Nephrocyte; Slit diaphragm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Cytokinesis*
  • Diaphragm
  • Drosophila*