Studies of organismal and tissue biomechanics have clearly demonstrated that musculoskeletal design is strongly dependent on experienced loads, which can vary in the short term, as a result of growth during life history and during the evolution of animal body size. However, how animals actually perceive and make adjustments to their load-bearing musculoskeletal elements that accommodate variation in their body weight is poorly understood. We developed an experimental model system that can be used to start addressing these open questions, and uses hypergravity centrifugation to experimentally manipulate the loads experienced by Drosophila melanogaster. We examined effects of this manipulation on leg muscle alternative splicing of the sarcomere gene troponin T (Dmel \up; Fbgn0004169, herein referred to by its synonym TnT), a process that was previously demonstrated to precisely correlate with quantitative variation in body weight in Lepidoptera and rat. In a similar fashion, hypergravity centrifugation caused fast (i.e. within 24 h) changes to fly leg muscle TnT alternative splicing that correlated with body weight variation across eight D. melanogaster lines. Hypergravity treatment also appeared to enhance leg muscle function, as centrifuged flies showed an increased negative geotaxis response and jump ability. Although the identity and location of the sensors and effectors involved remains unknown, our results provide further support for the existence of an evolutionarily conserved mechanism that translates signals that encode body weight into appropriate skeletal muscle molecular and functional responses.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Molecular Biology
- Insect Science