The Myostatin/Activin branch of the TGF-β superfamily acts as a negative regulator of vertebrate skeletal muscle size, in part, through downregulation of insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) signaling. Surprisingly, recent studies in Drosophila indicate that motoneuron-derived Activin signaling acts as a positive regulator of muscle size. Here we demonstrate that Drosophila Activin signaling promotes the growth of muscle cells along all three axes: width, thickness and length. Activin signaling positively regulates the insulin receptor (InR)/TORC1 pathway and the level of Myosin heavy chain (Mhc), an essential sarcomeric protein, via increased Pdk1 and Akt1 expression. Enhancing InR/TORC1 signaling in the muscle of Activin pathway mutants restores Mhc levels close to those of the wild type, but only increases muscle width. In contrast, hyperactivation of the Activin pathway in muscles increases overall larval body and muscle fiber length, even when Mhc levels are lowered by suppression of TORC1. Together, these results indicate that the Drosophila Activin pathway regulates larval muscle geometry and body size via promoting InR/TORC1-dependent Mhc production and the differential assembly of sarcomeric components into either pre-existing or new sarcomeric units depending on the balance of InR/TORC1 and Activin signals.
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