Gastrulation of the Drosophila embryo is one of the most intensively studied morphogenetic processes in animal development [1-4]. Particular efforts have focused on the formation of the ventral furrow, whereby ∼1,000 presumptive mesoderm cells exhibit coordinated apical constrictions that mediate invagination [5, 6]. Apical constriction depends on a Rho GTPase signaling pathway (T48/Fog) that is deployed by the developmental regulatory genes twist and snail [7-10]. It is thought that coordinate mesoderm constriction depends on high levels of myosin along the ventral midline, although the basis for this localization is uncertain. Here, we employ newly developed quantitative imaging methods to visualize the transcriptional dynamics of two key components of the Rho signaling pathway in living embryos, T48 and Fog. Both genes display dorsoventral (DV) gradients of expression due to differential timing of transcription activation. Transcription begins as a narrow stripe of two or three cells along the ventral midline, followed by progressive expansions into more lateral regions. Quantitative image analyses suggest that these temporal gradients produce differential spatial accumulations of t48 and fog mRNAs along the DV axis, similar to the distribution of myosin activity. We therefore propose that the transcriptional dynamics of t48 and fog expression foreshadow the coordinated invagination of the mesoderm at the onset of gastrulation.
Keywords: Drosophila embryogenesis; MS2-MCP live imaging; T48/Fog pathway; de novo transcription; mesoderm invagination; myosin.
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