How a neuron finds its synoptic target is one of the key questions of developmental neurobiology. It is a problem that must, at least in part, be explained in molecular terms. In light of this, several groups have recently examined the synapses that are made between individual motoneurons and muscle fibers in the embryos and larvae of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The work combines the traditions of small system neurobiology, which is founded on the analysis of singly identified cells, with those of developmental genetics. An important insight emerging from the work is that many of the familiar features of vertebrate synaptogenesis occur in Drosophila, where a rich array of genetic and molecular methods may be readily applied.
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