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Mech Dev. 2009 Dec;126(11-12):942-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mod.2009.09.002. Epub 2009 Sep 11.

Determination of mechanical stress distribution in Drosophila wing discs using photoelasticity.

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Fachbereich Physik, Universität Konstanz, Universitätstrasse 10, Fach 688, 78457 Konstanz, Germany.


Morphogenesis, the process by which all complex biological structures are formed, is driven by an intricate interplay between genes, growth, as well as intra- and intercellular forces. While the expression of different genes changes the mechanical properties and shapes of cells, growth exerts forces in response to which tissues, organs and more complex structures are shaped. This is exemplified by a number of recent findings for instance in meristem formation in Arabidopsis and tracheal tube formation in Drosophila. However, growth not only generates forces, mechanical forces can also have an effect on growth rates, as is seen in mammalian tissues or bone growth. In fact, mechanical forces can influence the expression levels of patterning genes, allowing control of morphogenesis via mechanical feedback. In order to study the connections between mechanical stress, growth control and morphogenesis, information about the distribution of stress in a tissue is invaluable. Here, we applied stress-birefringence to the wing imaginal disc of Drosophila melanogaster, a commonly used model system for organ growth and patterning, in order to assess the stress distribution present in this tissue. For this purpose, stress-related differences in retardance are measured using a custom-built optical set-up. Applying this method, we found that the stresses are inhomogeneously distributed in the wing disc, with maximum compression in the centre of the wing pouch. This compression increases with wing disc size, showing that mechanical forces vary with the age of the tissue. These results are discussed in light of recent models proposing mechanical regulation of wing disc growth.

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