The development of cellular junctions in the Drosophila embryo

Dev Biol. 1994 Feb;161(2):563-96. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1994.1054.


The pattern and development of cellular junctions in the different tissues of the Drosophila embryo from the blastoderm stage until hatching were analyzed. The cellular junctions found include: gap junctions, two types of septate junctions, and several types of cell-cell and cell-substrate adherens junctions. During early and mid embryogenesis (stages 4 to 13) only spot adherens junctions, gap junctions, and zonulae adherentes prevail. Scattered spot adherens junctions are already formed at the blastoderm stage. During and shortly after gastrulation, spot adherens junctions become concentrated at the apical pole and fuse into continuous zonulae adherentes in the posterior endoderm and the ectoderm. In addition to the zonulae adherentes, ectodermally derived epithelia possess scattered gap junctions and form pleated septate junctions and hemiadherens junctions during late embryogenesis (stages 14 to 17). Mesenchymal tissues (i.e., all nonepithelial tissues of the embryo, including the neural primordium and, transiently, the mesoderm and endoderm) possess both spot adherens junctions and gap junctions at a low frequency. Initially, the midgut epithelium does not establish a junctional complex and possess only gap junctions and spot adherens junctions. Only late in development does a circumferential smooth septate junction develop; zonulae adherentes are missing. The various derivatives of the mesoderm express spot adherens junctions, hemiadherens junctions, and gap junctions, but never zonulae adherentes or septate junctions. After organogenesis, several different types of tissue-specific adherens junctions are formed, among them connecting hemiadherens junctions (between gut epithelium and visceral muscle and early during the formation of the muscle tendon junction), muscle tendon junctions (between somatic muscle and tendon cells), fasciae adherentes (between the cells of both the visceral muscle and the dorsal vessel), and autocellular nephrocyte junctions (in nephrocytes). Interesting exceptions to the general pattern of junctional development are provided by the outer epithelial layer of the proventriculus and the Malpighian tubules. Both tissues develop as typical ectodermal epithelia and possess zonulae adherentes. During late embryogenesis, both epithelia lose the zonulae adherentes and form smooth rather than pleated septate junctions, thereby expressing a junctional complex similar to that of the endodermally derived midgut epithelium.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastoderm / ultrastructure
  • Cell Division
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Digestive System / embryology
  • Digestive System / ultrastructure
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila / ultrastructure
  • Ectoderm / ultrastructure
  • Epidermis / embryology
  • Epidermis / ultrastructure
  • Gastrula / ultrastructure
  • Intercellular Junctions*
  • Mesoderm / ultrastructure
  • Morphogenesis
  • Nervous System / embryology
  • Nervous System / ultrastructure