Morphogenesis of early embryos: in vivo mechanisms for cell sorting and collective cell movement
Cell sorting: functional analysis of putative Myosin II regulators
We have recently demonstrated using Chromophore-Assisted Laser Inactivation (CALI) in live Drosophila embryos, that a pool of Myosin II which forms cables at compartmental boundaries, is required for cell sorting at these boundaries (Monier et al, 2010, Nature Cell Biology, vol 12: 60-5). Using live imaging, we showed that this supracellular cable of Myosin II is required to stop dividing cells in one compartment from invading the adjacent compartment. To understand how actomyosin barriers form and function, we have performed a screen to find YFP-tagged proteins localising at these barriers. We are now testing the role of these proteins in compartmental cell sorting and in actomyosin barrier formation.
Collective cell movements: whole volume imaging of gastrulation in live embryos
We have mapped the collective cell movements during Drosophila embryo gastrulation and found that an axial force deforms the ectodermal cells (Butler et al, 2009, Nature Cell Biology, vol 11: 859-64). This gives us an unprecedented opportunity to analyse how active cell behaviours and extrinsic forces mechanistically interact to shape embryos. We have evidence that mesoderm invagination might provide the axial force that propels ectoderm convergence and extension. Analysing the relationship between these two morphogenetic movements will require characterising cell shapes in 3D (using cell membrane and nuclei labelling) and mapping their positions in the whole embryo volume, as a function of developmental time (see Collaborators).
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