Organ Formation in Drosophila: Specification and Morphogenesis of the Salivary Gland

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The Drosophila salivary gland has emerged as an outstanding model system for the process of organ formation. Many of the component steps, from initial regional specification through cell specialization and morphogenesis, are known and many of the genes required for these different processes have been identified. The salivary gland is a relatively simple organ; the entire gland comprises of only two major cell types, which derive from a single contiguous primordium. Salivary cells cease dividing once they are specified, and organ growth is achieved simply by an increase in size of individual cells, thus eliminating concerns about the potential unequal distribution of determinants during mitosis. Drosophila salivary glands form by the same cellular mechanisms as organs in higher organisms, including regulated cell shape changes, cell intercalation and directed cell migration. Thus, learning how these events are coordinated for tissue morphogenesis in an organism for which the genetic and molecular tools are unsurpassed should provide excellent paradigms for dissecting related processes in the more intricate organs of more complicated species.