The distribution of alpha-spectrin in Drosophila embryos was determined by immunofluorescence using affinity-purified polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies. During early development, spectrin is concentrated near the inner surface of the plasma membrane, in cytoplasmic islands around the syncytial nuclei, and, at lower concentrations, throughout the remainder of the cytoplasm of preblastoderm embryos. As embryogenesis proceeds, the distribution of spectrin shifts with the migrating nuclei toward the embryo surface so that, by nuclear cycle 9, a larger proportion of the spectrin is concentrated near the plasma membrane. During nuclear cycles 9 and 10, as the nuclei reach the cell surface, the plasma membrane-associated spectrin becomes concentrated into caps above the somatic nuclei. Concurrent with the mitotic events of the syncytial blastoderm period, the spectrin caps elongate at interphase and prophase, and divide as metaphase and anaphase progress. During cellularization, the regions of spectrin concentration appear to shift: spectrin increases near the growing furrow canal and concomitantly increases at the embryo surface. In the final phase of furrow growth, the shift in spectrin concentration is reversed: spectrin decreases near the furrow canal and concomitantly increases at the embryo surface. In gastrulae, spectrin accumulates near the embryo surface, especially at the forming amnioproctodeal invagination and cephalic furrow. During the germband elongation stage, the total amount of spectrin in the embryo increases significantly and becomes uniformly distributed at the plasma membrane of almost all cell types. The highest levels of spectrin are in the respiratory tract cells; the lowest levels are in parts of the forming gut. The spatial and temporal changes in spectrin localization suggest that this protein plays a role in stabilizing rather than initiating changes in structural organization in the embryo.

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