We have developed a reverse-genetic approach to study the function of flightin, a unique protein of the flight muscle myofibril of Drosophila melanogaster. We describe the generation and characterization of Df(3L)fln1, a lethal genetic deficiency in the 76BE region of the third chromosome which deletes several genes, including the gene for flightin. We show that heterozygous flies harboring the Df(3L)fln1 mutation exhibit both impaired flight and ultrastructural defects in their flight muscle myofibrils. We found that the mutation does not interfere with assembly of the myofibril but leads to disorganization of peripheral myofilaments in adult myofibrils. Most myofibrils, nevertheless, retain an intact core that represents approximately 80 % of the normal lattice diameter. Mechanical analysis of single skinned flight muscle fibers demonstrates that the mutation has no significant effect on net power output but increases the frequency at which maximum power is delivered to the wings, potentially reducing the overall performance of the flight system. The results suggest that flightin is an indispensable part of the flight muscle contractile mechanism.

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