How the size and form of an organism are controlled are two fundamental questions in developmental biology. The imaginal eye disc of Drosophila melanogaster provides an excellent model tissue to analyse both of these phenomena at the same time. This project has two goals. First, to analyse how the intercellular signals that drive eye development integrate to regulate proliferation. Second, to use a similar approach to elucidating how cell shape is regulated by signals. The particular development of the eye disc provides the key that makes these two questions amenable to analysis.
A wave of development sweeps from posterior to anterior across this imaginal disc and an indentation known as the morphogenetic furrow (MF) marks the front of this wave. Cells just anterior to the furrow are arrested in G1 phase in a non-differentiated stage. Soon after the passage of the MF, most cells undergo a single round of mitosis, the second mitotic wave (SMW), and start to differentiate. Not only do cells go through this coordinated cell cycle around the MF, they also undergo dramatic changes in cell shape: as they enter the MF they shorten in the apical/basal axis and constrict their apical surfaces. Once the MF has passed they return to more normal columnar epithelial morphology.
The MF movement is controlled by well- characterised intercellular signals and I hope to find the functional link between the reception of these signals and cellular events described above. Specific questions will include how these signals control proliferation and cell shape in the region around the MF. What other genes, like eye pre-pattern transcription factors, are involved in the cell cycle control? What cell adhesion molecules are responsible for the cell shape changes, and how is actin polymerisation controlled in the furrow. Finally, what is the relation between the changes in the cellular form and the cell cycle.
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