The Role of Mechanical Forces in Controlling Organ Growth

How shape and size are defined in a developing organism in one of the central questions in modern biology. The wing imaginal disc of Drosophila melanogaster is our model system to investigate this problem and to elucidate the dynamics of tissue growth. Tissue growth bears two challenging questions: (1) As morphogen gradients are known to play a major role in tissue growth, how can a morphogen in a graded pattern generate uniform growth along the tissue? (2) When does a tissue cease to grow and how is its final size regulated? Recently, considering these challenges, a model has been proposed by Aegerter-Wilmsen et al. 2007 which integrates a feedback of mechanical forces into the regulatory system of growth in the wing disc. 

In collaboration between the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences we are establishing a set up to apply mechanical forces onto the wing disc. By generating a defined mechanical stress onto the tissue we want to explore the intrinsic molecular factors which sense mechanical inputs and translate them to the regulation of tissue growth. Furthermore we would like to develop molecular markers to measure tension forces along the wing disc in order to monitor the dynamics of local changes of mechanical tension. With this system we would have a powerful tool to measure mechanical forces on single cells of the tissue and further to examine their specific cellular behavior.

Aegerter-Wilmsen, T., Aegerter, C. M., Hafen, E. and Basler, K. (2007). Model for the regulation of size in the wing imaginal disc of Drosophila. Mech Dev. 124, 318-326.

Keywords: Drosophila, Wing Imaginal Disc, Growth Regulation, Mechanotransduction



 Dominik Eder

Dominik Eder
University of Zurich
Physical Systems Biology Group
Winterthurerstrasse 190
CH - 8057 Zurich

Phone: +41 44 635 40 30