Labs

Histogenetic Dynamics

Team Leader
Erina Kuranaga (Ph.D.)

The development of multicellular organisms involves the collective effect of multiple events at the level of the individual cell, such as proliferation, differentiation, adhesion, and migration. Programmed cell death, for example, is a process by which cells are selected for death at set times in development, allowing for the sculpting of tissue, and is used in the adult organism to maintain homeostasis by eliminating cells that have developed abnormalities. Perturbations in cell death signaling can thus affect an organism’s physiological stability, and result in developmental defects, tumorigenesis, or neurodegenerative disease. Cell death plays an important role in maintaining the cellular society not only by eliminating unneeded cells at given sites and stages, but in other functions, such as regulating the proliferation and migration of neighboring cells, as well. Such cellular behaviors give rise to cell networks capable of organizing into tissues, the study of which requires a experimental approach to spatiotemporal information in living systems, such as can be obtained through the real-time live imaging of biological phenomena.

We have chosen the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as our primary research model, seeking to take advantage of its utility in developmental studies and wealth of genetic data in studying the coordination of histogenesis through live imaging and genetic screens. To elucidate the role of cell death in histogenetic processes, we will analyze caspase mutant phenotypes in which the exterior male genitalia (terminalia) develops abnormally. In normal Drosophila development, the terminalia rotates 360° as it forms, but in caspase mutants, this revolution is incomplete. Image analysis reveals that in wildtype, the speed of this rotation is variable, with distinct initiation, acceleration, deceleration, and termination stages; caspase inhibition results in loss of the acceleration phase, and failure in terminalia development. We will seek to identify how caspase function and cell death control acceleration of the rotation through searching for associated genes and live imaging analysis. It has further been predicted that cell death alone cannot account for rotation that maintains tissue area, suggesting other mechanisms are also at work. We will conduct single-cell analyses to determine whether other behaviors such as proliferation or migration are also altered. Through the use of the extensive Drosophila genetics toolset and live imaging technologies, we hope to be able to address questions that have proven technically challenging in the past, and by visualizing the activities of individual cells, develop a better understanding of how cellular network systems work in histogenesis.

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Lab Homepage

kuranaga[at]cdb.riken.jp

Recruit

Dorsal (left) and ventral (right) views of Drosophila pupae that express fluorescent protein in cells located posterior component of each segment. Location of male genitalia is pointed in yellow square.
Caudal view of a Drosophila male terminalia showing cells in posterior compartment (green).
Caudal view of DE-Cadherin:GFP-expressing Drosophila. This image was taken before rotation.
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