Embryonic multipotent progenitors remodel the Drosophila airways during metamorphosis
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Adult structures in holometabolous insects such as Drosophila are generated by groups of imaginal cells dedicated to the formation of different organs. Imaginal cells are specified in the embryo and remain quiescent until the larval stages, when they proliferate and differentiate to form organs. The Drosophila tracheal system is extensively remodeled during metamorphosis by a small number of airway progenitors. Among these, the spiracular branch tracheoblasts are responsible for the generation of the pupal and adult abdominal airways. To understand the coordination of proliferation and differentiation during organogenesis of tubular organs, we analyzed the remodeling of Drosophila airways during metamorphosis. We show that the embryonic spiracular branch tracheoblasts are multipotent cells that express the homeobox transcription factor Cut, which is necessary for their survival and normal development. They give rise to three distinct cell populations at the end of larval development, which generate the adult tracheal tubes, the spiracle and the epidermis surrounding the spiracle. Our study establishes the series of events that lead to the formation of an adult tubular structure in Drosophila.