The physical mechanisms of Drosophila gastrulation: Mesoderm and endoderm invagination

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Details

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-560
Number of pages18
JournalGenetics
Volume214
Issue number3
StatusPublished - Jan 1 2020
Peer-reviewedYes

Abstract

A critical juncture in early development is the partitioning of cells that will adopt different fates into three germ layers: the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm. This step is achieved through the internalization of specified cells from the outermost surface layer, through a process called gastrulation. In Drosophila, gastrulation is achieved through cell shape changes (i.e., apical constriction) that change tissue curvature and lead to the folding of a surface epithelium. Folding of embryonic tissue results in mesoderm and endoderm invagination, not as individual cells, but as collective tissue units. The tractability of Drosophila as a model system is best exemplified by how much we know about Drosophila gastrulation, from the signals that pattern the embryo to the molecular components that generate force, and how these components are organized to promote cell and tissue shape changes. For mesoderm invagination, graded signaling by the morphogen, Spätzle, sets up a gradient in transcriptional activity that leads to the expression of a secreted ligand (Folded gastrulation) and a transmembrane protein (T48). Together with the GPCR Mist, which is expressed in the mesoderm, and the GPCR Smog, which is expressed uniformly, these signals activate heterotrimeric G-protein and small Rho-family G-protein signaling to promote apical contractility and changes in cell and tissue shape. A notable feature of this signaling pathway is its intricate organization in both space and time. At the cellular level, signaling components and the cytoskeleton exhibit striking polarity, not only along the apical-basal cell axis, but also within the apical domain. Furthermore, gene expression controls a highly choreographed chain of events, the dynamics of which are critical for primordium invagination; it does not simply throw the cytoskeletal “on” switch. Finally, studies of Drosophila gastrulation have provided insight into how global tissue mechanics and movements are intertwined as multiple tissues simultaneously change shape. Overall, these studies have contributed to the view that cells respond to forces that propagate over great distances, demonstrating that cellular decisions, and, ultimately, tissue shape changes, proceed by integrating cues across an entire embryo.

    Research areas

  • Adherens junction, Apical constriction, Cytoskeleton, FlyBook, GPCR, Morphogen, Morphogenesis, Myosin, Rho