The ability of many insects to walk on vertical smooth surfaces such as glass or even on the ceiling has fascinated biologists for a long time, and has led to the discovery of highly specialized adhesive organs located at the distal end of the animals' legs. So far, research has primarily focused on structural and ultrastructural investigations leading to a deeper understanding of adhesive organ functionality and to the development of new bioinspired materials. Genetic approaches, e.g. the analysis of mutants, to achieve a better understanding of adhesive organ differentiation have not been used so far. Here, we describe the first Drosophila melanogaster mutant that develops malformed adhesive organs, resulting in a complete loss of climbing ability on vertical smooth surfaces. Interestingly, these mutants fail to make close contact between the setal tips and the smooth surface, a crucial condition for wet adhesion mediated by capillary forces. Instead, these flies walk solely on their claws. Moreover, wewere able to show that the mutation is caused by a P-element insertion into the Su(z)2 gene locus. Remobilization of the P-element restores climbing ability. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the P-element insertion results in an artificial Su(z)2 transcript, which most likely causes a gain-of-function mutation. We presume that this transcript causes deregulation of yet unknown target genes involved in pulvilli differentiation. Our results nicely demonstrate that the genetically treatable model organism Drosophila is highly suitable for future investigations on adhesive organ differentiation.
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Correction can be found at Journal of Experimental Biology volume 218(10) p 1613, https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.125120
- adhesive organ
- smooth surface