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Organ size typically increases dramatically during juvenile growth. This growth presents a fundamental tension, as organs need resiliency to resist stresses while still maintaining plasticity to accommodate growth. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is central to providing resiliency, but how ECM is remodeled to accommodate growth is poorly understood. We investigated remodeling of Drosophila respiratory tubes (tracheae) that elongate continually during larval growth, despite being lined with a rigid cuticular ECM. Cuticle is initially deposited with a characteristic pattern of repeating ridges and valleys known as taenidia. We find that for tubes to elongate, the extracellular protease Mmp1 is required for expansion of ECM between the taenidial ridges during each intermolt period. Mmp1 protein localizes in periodically spaced puncta that are in register with the taenidial spacing. Mmp1 also degrades old cuticle at molts, promotes apical membrane expansion in larval tracheae, and promotes tube elongation in embryonic tracheae. Whereas work in other developmental systems has demonstrated that MMPs are required for axial elongation occurring in localized growth zones, this study demonstrates that MMPs can also mediate interstitial matrix remodeling during growth of an organ system.
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