Grand public

Muscles are the major force producing organs in our body. They enable us to climb high peaks, ran marathons or swim across the Channel. All muscles share a similar contractile machine called a sarcomere. Large muscles contain thousands of these sarcomeres arrayed in series to form long chains called myofibrils. These linear myofibrils span across the entire muscle cell.

Drosophila flight muscles (blue) house many parallel myofibrils of many hundred sarcomeres.

Muscle morphogenesis is a multi-step process. Myoblasts proliferate, migrate and fuse to myotubes. Myotube tips search for tendon cells, to which they establish stable force-resistant attachments. Finally, myofibrils and sarcomeres assemble to convert myotubes to myofibers. The biomechanics of these myofibrils is tuned to the particular functional needs of each muscle type in the body.

Flight muscle morphogenesis and sarcomere scheme.

We combine the advantages of the Drosophila genetic toolbox with high resolution in vivo imaging to functionally dissect the biomechanics of muscle morphogenesis. Questions we are particularly fascinated by include:

  • How do muscles establish force-resistant attachments to tendons?
  • How are contractile myofibrils and sarcomeres built?
  • How is functional muscle diversity achieved?