In Drosophila, a population of muscle-committed stem-like cells called adult muscle precursors (AMPs) keeps an undifferentiated and quiescent state during embryonic life. The embryonic AMPs are at the origin of all adult fly muscles and, as we demonstrate here, they express repressors of myogenic differentiation and targets of the Notch pathway known to be involved in muscle cell stemness. By targeting GFP to the AMP cell membranes, we show that AMPs are tightly associated with the peripheral nervous system and with a subset of differentiated muscles. They send long cellular processes running along the peripheral nerves and, by the end of embryogenesis, form a network of interconnected cells. Based on evidence from laser ablation experiments, the main role of these cellular extensions is to maintain correct spatial positioning of AMPs. To gain insights into mechanisms that lead to AMP cell specification, we performed a gain-of-function screen with a special focus on lateral AMPs expressing the homeobox gene ladybird. Our data show that the rhomboid-triggered EGF signalling pathway controls both the specification and the subsequent maintenance of AMP cells. This finding is supported by the identification of EGF-secreting cells in the lateral domain and the EGF-dependent regulatory modules that drive expression of the ladybird gene in lateral AMPs. Taken together, our results reveal an unsuspected capacity of embryonic AMPs to form a cell network, and shed light on the mechanisms governing their specification and maintenance.
Dr. Rajaguru Aradhya, N, F., T, J., JP, D. Ponte, and K, J., “Drosophila adult muscle precursors form a network of interconnected cells and are specified by the rhomboid-triggered EGF pathway”, Development, vol. 137, no. 12, pp. 1965-73, 2010.