Intact in situ Preparation of the Drosophila melanogaster Lymph Gland for a Comprehensive Analysis of Larval Hematopoiesis

Bio Protoc. 2021 Nov 5;11(21):e4204. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4204.


Blood cells have a limited lifespan and are replenished by a small number of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Adult vertebrate hematopoiesis occurs in the bone marrow, liver, and spleen, rendering a comprehensive analysis of the entire HSPC pool nearly impossible. The Drosophila blood system is well studied and has developmental, molecular, and functional parallels with that of vertebrates. Unlike vertebrates, post-embryonic hematopoiesis in Drosophila is essentially restricted to the larval lymph gland (LG), a multi-lobed organ that flanks the dorsal vessel. Because the anterior-most or primary lobes of the LG are easy to dissect out, their cellular and molecular characteristics have been studied in considerable detail. The 2-3 pairs of posterior lobes are more delicate and fragile and have largely been ignored. However, posterior lobes harbor a significant blood progenitor pool, and several hematopoietic mutants show differences in phenotype between the anterior and posterior lobes. Hence, a comprehensive analysis of the LG is important for a thorough understanding of Drosophila hematopoiesis. Most studies focus on isolating the primary lobes by methods that generally dislodge and damage other lobes. To obtain preparations of the whole LG, including intact posterior lobes, here we provide a detailed protocol for larval fillet dissection. This allows accessing and analyzing complete LG lobes, along with dorsal vessel and pericardial cells. We demonstrate that tissue architecture and integrity is maintained and provide methods for quantitative analysis. This protocol can be used to quickly and effectively isolate complete LGs from first instar larval to pupal stages and can be implemented with ease.

Keywords: Blood progenitor; Complete larval lymph gland; Dissection; Drosophila hematopoiesis; Posterior lobes; Secondary lobes; Tertiary lobes.