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Mechanical control of global cell behaviour during dorsal closure in Drosophila
Nicole Gorfinkiel, Guy B. Blanchard, Richard J. Adams, Alfonso Martinez Arias


Halfway through embryonic development, the epidermis of Drosophila exhibits a gap at the dorsal side covered by an extraembryonic epithelium, the amnioserosa (AS). Dorsal closure (DC) is the process whereby interactions between the two epithelia establish epidermal continuity. Although genetic and biomechanical analysis have identified the AS as a force-generating tissue, we do not know how individual cell behaviours are transformed into tissue movements. To approach this question we have applied a novel image-analysis method to measure strain rates in local domains of cells and performed a kinematic analysis of DC. Our study reveals spatial and temporal differences in the rate of apical constriction of AS cells. We find a slow phase of DC, during which apical contraction of cells at the posterior end predominates, and a subsequent fast phase, during which all the cells engage in the contraction, which correlates with the zippering process. There is a radial gradient of AS apical contraction, with marginal cells contracting earlier than more centrally located cells. We have applied this analysis to the study of mutant situations and associated a particular genotype with quantitative and reproducible changes in the rate of cell contraction and hence in the overall rate of the process. Our mutant analysis reveals the contribution of mechanical elements to the rate and pattern of DC.


  • This work was supported by a BBSRC grant to A.M.A., a BBSRC grant to A.M.A. and N.G. and an MRC grant to R.A. We are very grateful to members of our laboratories for fruitful discussions. N.G. thanks Lola Martín-Bermudo for the UAS-TorsoDβPScyt stock, and Carlos Torroja for discussions and support. Deposited in PMC for release after 6 months.

    • Accepted March 31, 2009.
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