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Cell rearrangements, cell divisions and cell death in a migrating epithelial sheet in the abdomen of Drosophila
Marcus Bischoff, Zoltán Cseresnyés


During morphogenesis, cell movements, cell divisions and cell death work together to form complex patterns and to shape organs. These events are the outcome of decisions made by many individual cells, but how these decisions are controlled and coordinated is elusive. The adult abdominal epidermis of Drosophila is formed during metamorphosis by divisions and extensive cell migrations of the diploid histoblasts, which replace the polyploid larval cells. Using in vivo 4D microscopy, we have studied the behaviour of the histoblasts and analysed in detail how they reach their final position and to what extent they rearrange during their spreading. Tracking individual cells, we show that the cells migrate in two phases that differ in speed, direction and amount of cellular rearrangement. Cells of the anterior (A) and posterior (P) compartments differ in their behaviour. Cells near the A/P border are more likely to change their neighbours during migration. The mitoses do not show any preferential orientation. After mitosis, the sisters become preferentially aligned with the direction of movement. Thus, in the abdomen, it is the extensive cell migrations that appear to contribute most to morphogenesis. This contrasts with other developing epithelia, such as the wing imaginal disc and the embryonic germband in Drosophila, where oriented mitoses and local cell rearrangements appear to direct morphogenesis. Furthermore, our results suggest that an active force created by the histoblasts contributes to the formation of the adult epidermis. Finally, we show that histoblasts occasionally undergo apoptosis.


  • We thank Kyra Campbell, Luis M. Escudero, Rita Sinka, Jean-Paul Vincent and the Bloomington Stock Centre for flies; Steve Ellis for building the incubation chamber; Caroline Fabre for flies and helpful discussions; Verena Dietrich-Bischoff for critically reading the manuscript and helpful discussions; José Casal for flies, advice, critically reading the manuscript and helpful discussions; Peter A. Lawrence for advice, critically reading the manuscript, helpful discussions and help in writing the manuscript. This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust grant 079204/Z/06/Z (Z.C.), the Medical Research Council (M.B.), a DFG research fellowship (M.B.) and the Wellcome Trust grant WD078889MA to Peter A. Lawrence in whose laboratory the work was conducted. Deposited in PMC for release after 6 months.

    • Accepted May 19, 2009.
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