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Cell division in Malpighian tubule development in D. melanogaster is regulated by a single tip cell


THE controlled production of cells by mitosis underlies the generation of pattern in a developing organism. Any particular structure is made up of a more or less constant number of cells1,2, which results both from the size of the primordium and from the number of times these founder cells divide. Here I describe a mechanism that regulates cell division during the organogenesis of the insect kidney (Malpighian tubules) in Drosophila melanogaster. A single cell is shown to regulate the division of the other cells making up the tissue. This specialized cell, the tip cell, is set aside early in development and is distinctive both in its position and in its behaviour. Ablation of this cell arrests mitosis in the surrounding cells and prevents further growth. The presence of a tip cell in each tubule seems to be a feature of the development of Malpighian tubules in many insects, and its role in regulating cell division is similar to the control of germ-line mitoses by distal tip cells in the nematode gonad3.

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Skaer, H. Cell division in Malpighian tubule development in D. melanogaster is regulated by a single tip cell. Nature 342, 566–569 (1989).

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