Global Properties of the System

How do developing organs and tissues match pattern and size? What are the physical properties of the wing disc?

How scaling - the fitting of pattern to size - is achieved in not well understood. Mechanical forces can influence cell differentiation and growth, but physical measurements of growth regulation in the imaginal wing discs have been rarely performed. Thus, this WingX research subgroup intends to advance the understanding of scaling and physical properties of the wing disc by establishing experimental setups, applying adequate imaging techniques and biological reporters, and by developing segmentation algorithms and computational models.


While organs and tissues develop they need to preserve proportions and constantly match pattern and size - they need to scale. Diffusive morphogen gradients can provide such positional information as they co-coordinately regulate patterning and growth. This WingX research subgroup investigates scaling in the Drosophila embryo and wing imaginal disc by studying the Bicoid and Decapentaplegic (Dpp) morphogen gradients. The aim is to uncover the molecular mechanisms that ensure proper scaling of the activity gradients, to elucidate how precision is achieved during dynamic developmental processes, and to investigate the characteristics of the morphogen gradient source. Novel and comprehensive approaches to quantify gene and protein expression profiles with spatial and temporal resolutions need to be developed. This involves biological markers and reporters (e.g. fluorescent antibodies), imaging techniques paired with elaborate image analysis and algorithms, and mathematical modeling frameworks.

Besides molecular factors and networks, mechanical forces are believed to impact on the regulation of organ growth. Cells are mechanically deformable and exposed to compression, bending and tensile forces during development. New theoretical models, which integrate these forces, aim at explaining why the cells of the wing imaginal disc grow and proliferate homogeneously although the growth regulating molecules are not uniformly distributed over the tissue. Therefore, physical measurements of mechanical forces are likely to complement genetic studies of growth control. This subgroup aims at quantifying elastic properties of developing tissues. Thus, setups to mechanically manipulate wing discs with controlled forces will be established. In addition, tools will be developed that allow for measuring stresses within tissues. The obtained results will be compared and integrated into theoretical size models. A detailed study of the molecular mechanisms behind the quantified elasticities could then be investigated further.


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