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Combined modeling and experimental study of the interplay between tissue growth and shape regulation during Drosophila wing disc development

Mark Alber

The regulation and maintenance of an organ’s shape is a major outstanding question in developmental biology. The Drosophila wing imaginal disc serves as a powerful system for elucidating design principles of the shape formation in epithelial morphogenesis. Yet, even simple epithelial systems such as the wing disc are extremely complex. A tissue’s shape emerges from the integration of many biochemical and biophysical interactions between proteins, subcellular components, and cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions. How cellular mechanical properties affect tissue size and patterning of cell identities on the apical surface of the wing disc pouch has been intensively investigated. However, less effort has focused on studying the mechanisms governing the shape of the wing disc in the cross-section. Both the significance and difficulty of such studies are due in part to the need to consider the composite nature of the material consisting of multiple cell layers and cell-ECM interactions as well as the elongated shape of columnar cells. Results obtained using iterative approach combining multiscale computational modelling and quantitative experimental approach will be used in this talk to discuss direct and indirect roles of subcellular mechanical forces, nuclear positioning, and extracellular matrix in shaping the major axis of the wing pouch during the larval stage in fruit flies, which serves as a prototypical system for investigating epithelial morphogenesis. The research findings demonstrate that subcellular mechanical forces can effectively generate the curved tissue profile, while extracellular matrix is necessary for preserving the bent shape even in the absence of subcellular mechanical forces once the shape is generated. The developed integrated multiscale modelling environment can be readily extended to generate and test hypothesized novel mechanisms of developmental dynamics of other systems, including organoids that consist of several cellular and extracellular matrix layers.


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