University of Cambridge > > Genetics Seminar  > Checks and Balances in Drosophila Muscle and Heart Differentiation Programs.

Checks and Balances in Drosophila Muscle and Heart Differentiation Programs.

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Caroline Newnham.

Host: Alfonso Martinez-Arias

Cell differentiation programs underpin the production of specialised tissues during development. Understanding these programs is also indispensable for a range of applications, including stem cell technology and tissue repair. We study muscle and heart, which are established paradigms for cell differentiation and significant for human health, in the classic model organism Drosophila melanogaster.

Programs of cell differentiation are controlled by key transcription factors. In Drosophila there are two phases of myogenesis initiated from pools of progenitor cells and which produce the larval musculature during embryogenesis and the adult muscles during metamorphosis. In both, the conserved transcription factor Mef2, which has many target genes, plays a pivotal role. Development of the largest flight muscles, in which degenerating larval muscles fuse with progenitor cells, is fascinating and a paradigm for tissue remodelling. We found that Mef2 has temporally separable functions in remodelling and tissue maintenance (Development 139:1270).

Regulation of Mef2 activity is crucial. In both phases of myogenesis Mef2 is present in progenitor cells before differentiation gets underway (MOD 126:595) and different Mef2 target genes are expressed at different times (PNAS 105:918; Development 139:1270). Current work is centred on the Mef2-interacting proteins required to modulate Mef2 activity. We identified Him as a novel regulator of Mef2 (Curr.Biol. 17:1409) and have initiated a comprehensive screen for other potential regulators with the goal of understanding how Mef2 orchestrates different aspects of muscle differentiation programs.

The Drosophila heart comprises two cell types: contractile cardioblasts surrounded by non-contractile pericardial cells. As the two cell types develop Mef2 expression is restricted to the cardioblasts and Him to the pericardial cells. I will present some recent findings on this developmental program centred on Mef2 and Him. Analysis of Mef2 is a model for understanding in general how key regulators are used in multiple situations to generate different outputs.

This talk is part of the Genetics Seminar series.

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