Development of wing sensory axons in the central nervous system of Drosophila during metamorphosis

J Neurobiol. 1995 Feb;26(2):189-204. doi: 10.1002/neu.480260204.


The development of new, adult-specific axonal pathways in the central nervous system (CNS) of insects during metamorphosis is still largely uncharacterized. Here we used axonal labeling with DiI to describe the timing and pattern of growth of sensory axons originating in the wing of Drosophila as they establish their adult projection pattern in the CNS during pupal life. The wing of Drosophila carries a small number of readily identifiable sensory organs (sensilla) whose neurons are located in the periphery and whose axons travel along specific routes within the adult CNS. The neurons are born and undergo axonogenesis in a characteristic order. The order of axon arrival in the CNS appears to be the same as that of their development in the periphery. Within the CNS, the formation of four prominent axon bundles leading to distant termination sites is followed by the formation of a compact axon termination site near the point of wing nerve entry into the CNS. This sensillum-specific pattern persists into adulthood without discernible modification. We also find a small number of axons filled with DiI prior to the formation of the four permanent bundles. We have only been able to fill them for a few hours in early pupal life and therefore consider them to be transient. The bundles of wing sensory axons travel within tracts that contain other axons as well. Using immunocytochemistry, the tracts start to be histologically identifiable at around 12 h after pupariation (AP), and grow substantially as metamorphosis proceeds. Wing sensory neurons are found in the tracts by 18-20 h AP and the full adult pattern is established by 48 h AP. When sensory axons first enter the CNS, they fan out in the region where their appropriate tracts are located, but they do not wander extensively. They quickly form bundles that become increasingly compact over time. Calculations show that the rate of axon extension within the CNS varies from bundle to bundle and is equal to or greater than that of the same axons growing through wing tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Sensory / physiology
  • Immunochemistry
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / physiology*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Time Factors
  • Wings, Animal / growth & development*