Embryonic development of the Drosophila brain. I. Pattern of pioneer tracts

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Dec 7;402(1):10-31.


The neuropile of the late embryonic Drosophila brain can be subdivided into a vertical component (cervical connective), a transverse component (supraesophageal commissure), and a horizontal component for which we propose the term protocerebral connective. The core of each neuropile component is formed by numerous axon fascicles, the trajectory of which follows an invariant pattern. In the present study we have used an antibody against the adhesion molecule Fasciclin II (FasII) that is expressed in a large number of early differentiating neurons of the Drosophila embryo to follow the development of the axon tracts of the brain. The FasII antigen appears on the surface of clusters of neuronal somata prior to axon outgrowth. These clusters, for which we propose the term fibre tract founder clusters, are laid out in a linear pattern that forms an almost uninterrupted longitudinal track reaching from the ventral nerve cord to the "tip" of the brain. After expressing FasII on their soma, neurons of the fibre tract founder clusters extend axons that grow along the surface of the founder clusters and form a simple system of pioneer tracts for each of the components of the brain neuropile. We have reconstructed the FasII-positive fibre tract founder clusters and their axons from optical sections and generated digital 3-D models that illustrate the spatial relationships of the pioneer tracts. Three fibre tract founder clusters, D/T, P1, and P3m, pioneer the cervical connective. P21 and P2m form a transverse track that pioneers the supraesophageal commissure. P4m and P41/P51/VP5m form two tracts that pioneer a medial and a lateral component of the protocerebral connective, respectively. Because FasII expression continues uninterruptedly into the larval period when the "rudiments" of many parts of the adult neuropile are readily identifiable, it was possible to assign several of the embryonic pioneer tracts to definitive neuropile components, including the median bundle, antennocerebral tract, mushroom body, and posterior optic tract.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animal Structures / embryology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / embryology
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / embryology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways
  • Neuropil / physiology*