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Locally generated forces within an epithelium: how do they affect the morphogenesis and planar cell polarity?

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Delineating wing development in the fruit fly

European scientists studied wing hinge development in Drosophila by concentrating on the role of external forces in the regenerating epithelium.

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Drosophila melanogaster, commonly known as the fruit fly, is an ideal model organism for studying various biological processes. Despite extensive research, there are still developmental mechanisms that remain poorly understood. Seeking to contribute to the further understanding of wing development, the EU-funded ‘Locally generated forces within an epithelium: how do they affect the morphogenesis and planar cell polarity?’ (Drosoforcespolarity) project optimised in vivo imaging techniques of the drosophila wing with resolution at the cellular level. Scientists aimed to examine the cellular mechanisms underlying the hinge – the region that joins the wings and thorax – patterning. In particular, they wished to understand how contractility in individual cells within the Drosophila wing hinge and wing blade generates epithelial remodelling. The main focus was on the role of planar cell polarity proteins in generating and/or responding to localised forces and to test the hypothesis that convergence-extension movements are driven by external stretching forces caused by hinge contraction. Results indicated that the apical cell surface area as well as cellular elongation reflect the progressive patterning of the hinge during development. Furthermore, genes located in the second chromosome of Drosophila are involved in hinge patterning. Biophysical experiments in the hinge performed by laser cuts to impose tension are expected to address how anisotropic forces pattern the hinge. Collectively, the work achieved under the Drosoforcespolarity project is expected to give rise to significant improvements in our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the morphogenesis of the drosophila wing epithelium. Additionally, the results have the potential to be extended to higher organisms and help shed light on epithelium development and remodelling.

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