Cellular Properties of the System

How do force sensing signaling pathways and mechanical stress regulate growth and topology of the wing disc epithelium? What is the genetic variation of size?


Regulation by mechanical stresses might have a biological function in uniformly growing tissues, such as the Drosophila wing disc epithelium. This is being investigated by this WingX subgroup by developing theoretical models and comparing them with experimental data. Moreover, this subgroup applies population and systems genetics approaches, to explore the poorly understood underlying genetics of Drosophila intra-species variation of wing size and shape.


The Drosophila wing imaginal disc serves as a model system to study growth, epithelial packing, and how an epithelium is capable of resisting applied mechanical stress. For the wing disc, a growth regulatory effect of mechanical forces is difficult to assess experimentally because the disc cannot readily be accessed mechanically in vivo and there is no satisfactory in vitro culture system available at present. Therefore, this research subgroup builds theoretical models and compares them with experimental data. The developed models will integrate cell division, cell rearrangements and cellular growth rates that are dependent on mechanical stress. The ultimate goal is to combine experimentation and 3D modeling to elucidate the mechanisms of how a wing disc epithelium maintains its structural integrity.

The genetic networks underlying quantitative trait phenotypes such as height, aggression behavior or many common complex diseases, and the genes responsible for naturally occurring variation in these traits are still incompletely, if at all understood. This is despite the advent of whole genome sequencing and the increasing number of genome wide association studies (GWAS) in various organisms. The Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) consists of 192 inbred Drosophila lines derived from a natural population in Raleigh, North Carolina. These lines harbor a large pool of naturally occurring genetic variation and the sequence of their whole genome including all molecular variants is known and publicly available. The major interest of this WingX subgroup lies in the characterization of the 192 lines for wing traits and subsequent association mapping to identify genes affecting wing size and shape and unveil the underlying networks. This will help to better understand Drosophila wing development at the systems level as opposed to the classical organism minus one gene approach.


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