Most studies on morphogenesis rely on qualitative descriptions of how anatomical traits are affected by the disruption of specific genes and genetic pathways. Quantitative descriptions are rarely performed, although genetic manipulations produce a range of phenotypic effects and variations are observed even among individuals within control groups. Emerging evidence shows that morphology, size and location of organelles play a previously underappreciated, yet fundamental role in cell function and survival. Here we provide step-by-step instructions for performing quantitative analyses of phenotypes at the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ). We use several reliable immuno-histochemical markers combined with bio-imaging techniques and morphometric analyses to examine the effects of genetic mutations on specific cellular processes. In particular, we focus on the quantitative analysis of phenotypes affecting morphology, size and position of nuclei within the striated muscles of Drosophila larvae. The Drosophila larval NMJ is a valuable experimental model to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the structure and the function of the neuromuscular system, both in health and disease. However, the methodologies we describe here can be extended to other systems as well.
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