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Development. 2009 Jun;136(11):1889-98. doi: 10.1242/dev.030866. Epub 2009 Apr 29.

Mechanical control of global cell behaviour during dorsal closure in Drosophila.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EH, UK.


Halfway through embryonic development, the epidermis of Drosophila exhibits a gap at the dorsal side covered by an extraembryonic epithelium, the amnioserosa (AS). Dorsal closure (DC) is the process whereby interactions between the two epithelia establish epidermal continuity. Although genetic and biomechanical analysis have identified the AS as a force-generating tissue, we do not know how individual cell behaviours are transformed into tissue movements. To approach this question we have applied a novel image-analysis method to measure strain rates in local domains of cells and performed a kinematic analysis of DC. Our study reveals spatial and temporal differences in the rate of apical constriction of AS cells. We find a slow phase of DC, during which apical contraction of cells at the posterior end predominates, and a subsequent fast phase, during which all the cells engage in the contraction, which correlates with the zippering process. There is a radial gradient of AS apical contraction, with marginal cells contracting earlier than more centrally located cells. We have applied this analysis to the study of mutant situations and associated a particular genotype with quantitative and reproducible changes in the rate of cell contraction and hence in the overall rate of the process. Our mutant analysis reveals the contribution of mechanical elements to the rate and pattern of DC.

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