Variation in the Dorsal Gradient Distribution Is a Source for Modified Scaling of Germ Layers in Drosophila.
ABSTRACT Specification of germ layers along the dorsoventral axis by morphogenetic gradients is an ideal model to study scaling properties of gradients and cell fate changes during evolution. Classical anatomical studies in divergent insects (e.g., flies and grasshoppers) revealed that the neuroectodermal size is conserved and originates similar numbers of neuroblasts of homologous identity [1-3]. In contrast, mesodermal domains vary significantly in closely related Drosophila species . To further investigate the underlying mechanisms of scaling of germ layers across Drosophila species, we quantified the Dorsal (Dl)/NF-κB gradient, the main morphogenetic gradient that initiates separation of the mesoderm, neuroectoderm, and ectoderm [5-7]. We discovered a variable range of Toll activation across species and found that Dl activates mesodermal genes at the same threshold levels in melanogaster sibling species. We also show that the Dl gradient distribution can be modulated by nuclear size and packing densities. We propose that variation in mesodermal size occurs at a fast evolutionary rate and is an important mechanism to define the ventral boundary of the neuroectoderm.
SourceAvailable from: Hannah R Koslen[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Morphogenetic gradients are essential to allocate cell fates in embryos of varying sizes within and across closely related species. We previously showed that the maternal NF-κB/Dorsal (Dl) gradient has acquired different shapes in Drosophila species, which result in unequally scaled germ layers along the dorso-ventral axis and the repositioning of the neuroectodermal borders. Here we combined experimentation and mathematical modeling to investigate which factors might have contributed to the fast evolutionary changes of this gradient. To this end, we modified a previously developed model that employs differential equations of the main biochemical interactions of the Toll (Tl) signaling pathway, which regulates Dl nuclear transport. The original model simulations fit well the D. melanogaster wild type, but not mutant conditions. To broaden the applicability of this model and probe evolutionary changes in gradient distributions, we adjusted a set of 19 independent parameters to reproduce three quantified experimental conditions (i.e. Dl levels lowered, nuclear size and density increased or decreased). We next searched for the most relevant parameters that reproduce the species-specific Dl gradients. We show that adjusting parameters relative to morphological traits (i.e. embryo diameter, nuclear size and density) alone is not sufficient to reproduce the species Dl gradients. Since components of the Tl pathway simulated by the model are fast-evolving, we next asked which parameters related to Tl would most effectively reproduce these gradients and identified a particular subset. A sensitivity analysis reveals the existence of nonlinear interactions between the two fast-evolving traits tested above, namely the embryonic morphological changes and Tl pathway components. Our modeling further suggests that distinct Dl gradient shapes observed in closely related melanogaster sub-group lineages may be caused by similar sequence modifications in Tl pathway components, which are in agreement with their phylogenetic relationships.PLoS Computational Biology 08/2014; 10(8):e1003807. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003807 · 4.83 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Many organisms and their constituent tissues and organs vary substantially in size but differ little in morphology; they appear to be scaled versions of a common template or pattern. Such scaling involves adjusting the intrinsic scale of spatial patterns of gene expression that are set up during development to the size of the system. Identifying the mechanisms that regulate scaling of patterns at the tissue, organ and organism level during development is a longstanding challenge in biology, but recent molecular-level data and mathematical modeling have shed light on scaling mechanisms in several systems, including Drosophila and Xenopus. Here, we investigate the underlying principles needed for understanding the mechanisms that can produce scale invariance in spatial pattern formation and discuss examples of systems that scale during development.Development 12/2013; 140(24):4830-43. DOI:10.1242/dev.100511 · 6.27 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Scaling of pattern with size has been described and studied for over a century, yet its molecular basis is understood in only a few cases. In a recent, elegant study, Inomata and colleagues proposed a new model explaining how bone morphogenic protein (BMP) activity gradient scales with embryo size in the early Xenopus laevis embryo. We discuss their results in conjunction with an alternative model we proposed previously. The expansion-repression mechanism (ExR) provides a conceptual framework unifying both mechanisms. Results of Inomata and colleagues implicate the chordin-stabilizing protein sizzled as the expander molecule enabling scaling, while we attributed this role to the BMP ligand Admp. The two expanders may work in concert, as suggested by the mathematical model of Inomata et al. We discuss approaches for differentiating the contribution of sizzled and Admp to pattern scaling.BioEssays 02/2014; 36(2). DOI:10.1002/bies.201300136 · 4.84 Impact Factor