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Dev Cell. 2008 Sep;15(3):470-7. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2008.07.009.

Tissue deformation modulates twist expression to determine anterior midgut differentiation in Drosophila embryos.

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  • 1Mechanics and Genetics of Embryonic and Tumoral Development Group, UMR168 CNRS, Institut Curie, 11 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, F-75005, Paris, France.


Mechanical deformations associated with embryonic morphogenetic movements have been suggested to actively participate in the signaling cascades regulating developmental gene expression. Here we develop an appropriate experimental approach to ascertain the existence and the physiological relevance of this phenomenon. By combining the use of magnetic tweezers with in vivo laser ablation, we locally control physiologically relevant deformations in wild-type Drosophila embryonic tissues. We demonstrate that the deformations caused by germ band extension upregulate Twist expression in the stomodeal primordium. We find that stomodeal compression triggers Src42A-dependent nuclear translocation of Armadillo/beta-catenin, which is required for Twist mechanical induction in the stomodeum. Finally, stomodeal-specific RNAi-mediated silencing of Twist during compression impairs the differentiation of midgut cells, resulting in larval lethality. These experiments show that mechanically induced Twist upregulation in stomodeal cells is necessary for subsequent midgut differentiation.

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