Patterning and organization of motor neuron dendrites in the Drosophila larva

Michael D. Kim, Yuhui Wen, Yuh Nung Jan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Precise patterns of motor neuron connectivity depend on the proper establishment and positioning of the dendritic arbor. However, how different motor neurons orient their dendrites to selectively establish synaptic connectivity is not well understood. The Drosophila neuromuscular system provides a simple model to investigate the underlying organizational principles by which distinct subclasses of motor neurons orient their dendrites within the central neuropil. Here we used genetic mosaic techniques to characterize the diverse dendritic morphologies of individual motor neurons from five main nerve branches (ISN, ISNb, ISNd, SNa, and SNc) in the Drosophila larva. We found that motor neurons from different nerve branches project their dendrites to largely stereotyped mediolateral domains in the dorsal region of the neuropil providing full coverage of the receptive territory. Furthermore, dendrites from different motor neurons overlap extensively, regardless of subclass, suggesting that repulsive dendrite-dendrite interactions between motor neurons do not influence the mediolateral positioning of dendritic fields. The anatomical data in this study provide important information regarding how different subclasses of motor neurons organize their dendrites and establishes a foundation for the investigation of the mechanisms that control synaptic connectivity in the Drosophila motor circuit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-221
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 15 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon
  • Dendrite
  • Drosophila
  • Motor neuron
  • Neuromuscular junction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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