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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47594. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047594. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

In-vivo imaging of the Drosophila wing imaginal disc over time: novel insights on growth and boundary formation.

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Physik-Institut, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


In developmental biology, the sequence of gene induction and pattern formation is best studied over time as an organism develops. However, in the model system of Drosophila larvae this oftentimes proves difficult due to limitations in imaging capabilities. Using the larval wing imaginal disc, we show that both overall growth, as well as the creation of patterns such as the distinction between the anterior(A) and posterior(P) compartments and the dorsal(D) and ventral(V) compartments can be studied directly by imaging the wing disc as it develops inside a larva. Imaged larvae develop normally, as can be seen by the overall growth curve of the wing disc. Yet, the fact that we can follow the development of individual discs through time provides the opportunity to simultaneously assess individual variability. We for instance find that growth rates can vary greatly over time. In addition, we observe that mechanical forces act on the wing disc within the larva at times when there is an increase in growth rates. Moreover, we observe that A/P boundary formation follows the established sequence and a smooth boundary is present from the first larval instar on. The division of the wing disc into a dorsal and a ventral compartment, on the other hand, develops quite differently. Contrary to expectation, the specification of the dorsal compartment starts with only one or two cells in the second larval instar and a smooth boundary is not formed until the third larval instar.

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