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PLoS One. 2014 Jul 14;9(7):e102534. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102534. eCollection 2014.

Transcriptional regionalization of the fruit fly's airway epithelium.

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  • 1University of Kiel, Dept. Molecular Physiology, Kiel, Germany.
  • 2University of Kiel, Dept. Molecular Physiology, Kiel, Germany; Research Center Borstel, Priority Area Allergy and Asthma, Borstel, Germany.
  • 3Research Center Borstel, Priority Area Allergy and Asthma, Borstel, Germany.
  • 4Bernhard-Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Dept. Molecular Parasitology, Hamburg, Germany.
  • 5University of Kiel, Dept. Molecular Physiology, Kiel, Germany; German Center for Lung Research (DZL), Airway Research Center North (ARCN), Germany.


Although airway epithelia are primarily devoted to gas exchange, they have to fulfil a number of different tasks including organ maintenance and the epithelial immune response to fight airborne pathogens. These different tasks are at least partially accomplished by specialized cell types in the epithelium. In addition, a proximal to distal gradient mirroring the transition from airflow conduction to real gas exchange, is also operative. We analysed the airway system of larval Drosophila melanogaster with respect to region-specific expression in the proximal to distal axis. The larval airway system is made of epithelial cells only. We found differential expression between major trunks of the airways and more distal ones comprising primary, secondary and terminal ones. A more detailed analysis was performed using DNA-microarray analysis to identify cohorts of genes that are either predominantly expressed in the dorsal trunks or in the primary/secondary/terminal branches of the airways. Among these differentially expressed genes are especially those involved in signal transduction. Wnt-signalling associated genes for example are predominantly found in secondary/terminal airways. In addition, some G-protein coupled receptors are differentially expressed between both regions of the airways, exemplified by those activated by octopamine or tyramine, the invertebrate counterparts of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Whereas the OAMB is predominantly found in terminal airway regions, the oct3βR has higher expression levels in dorsal trunks. In addition, we observed a significant association of both, genes predominantly expressed in dorsal trunks or in primary to terminal branches branches with those regulated by hypoxia. Taken together, this observed differential expression is indicative for a proximal to distal transcriptional regionalization presumably reflecting functional differences in these parts of the fly's airway system.

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