Most multicellular organisms on Earth—including you—begin as a single fertilized egg and then undergo a complex choreography of cellular growth to become a functioning adult composed of countless cells. Understanding this process is a major goal in the field of developmental biology. Now, using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system, a new study illustrates how two proteins act like conductors, giving cues during the very earliest stages of a fruit fly's development.
The work was done in the laboratory of Angelike Stathopoulos, professor of biology, and appeared in a paper in the journal Cell Reports on July 23.
Humans - Fruit - Flies - Model - Organism
Though they may seem very different from humans, fruit flies are often used as a model organism to understand the basic biology that underlies our development. A large part of the Stathopoulos lab's research focuses on answering the question: How does an embryonic fruit fly's cells make decisions about which genes to express at the right times in order to develop into the right body parts?
The key to the processes of cellular differentiation—the ability of cells to develop specialized functions at specific locations—involves the regulation of gene expression. Though every cell in a fly has the same copy of the fly's genome, individual cells express genes differently over time. As an analogy, one can think of a symphony: all of the musicians in an orchestra receive the same, complete score, but each musician only plays their own part.
Stages - Drosophila - Development - Embryo - Football
At the earliest stages of Drosophila development, the embryo is shaped like an American football. Some of the 5,000 cells that make up the embryo, localized together within a stripe aligned lengthwise down the middle of the football shape (where the stitches would be on the ball), are destined to make specific types of cells, such as neurons. To support this differentiation, the cells...
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