How multicellular organisms control their size is a fundamental question that fascinated generations of biologists. In the past 10 years, tremendous progress has been made toward our understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying size control. Original studies from Drosophila showed that in addition to extrinsic nutritional and hormonal cues, intrinsic mechanisms also play important roles in the control of organ size during development. Several novel signaling pathways such as insulin and Hippo-LATS signaling pathways have been identified that control organ size by regulating cell size and/or cell number through modulation of cell growth, cell division, and cell death. Later studies using mammalian cell and mouse models also demonstrated that the signaling pathways identified in flies are also conserved in mammals. Significantly, recent studies showed that dysregulation of size control plays important roles in the development of many human diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertrophy.
size control; cell proliferation; cell size; insulin signaling; Hippo-LATS signaling
The mechanisms controlling mammalian organ size have long been a source of fascination for biologists. These controls are needed to both ensure the integrity of the body plan and to restrict inappropriate proliferation that could lead to cancer. Regulation of liver size is of particular interest inasmuch as this organ maintains the capacity for regeneration throughout life, and is able to regain precisely its original mass after partial surgical resection. Recent studies using genetically engineered mouse strains have shed new light on this problem; the Hippo signalling pathway, first elucidated as a regulator of organ size in Drosophila, has been identified as dominant determinant of liver growth. Defects in this pathway in mouse liver lead to sustained liver overgrowth and the eventual development of both major types of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma. In this review, we discuss the role of Hippo signalling in liver biology and the contribution of this pathway to liver cancer in humans.
liver cancer; hepatocellular carcinoma; cholangiocarcinoma; oval cells; Hippo; Rassf polypeptides; tumour suppressor pathway
One of the most fascinating processes during nervous system development is the establishment of stereotypic neuronal networks. An essential step in this process is the outgrowth and precise navigation (pathfinding) of axons and dendrites towards their synaptic partner cells. This phenomenon was first described more than a century ago and, over the past decades, increasing insights have been gained into the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating neuronal growth and navigation. Progress in this area has been greatly assisted by the use of simple and genetically tractable invertebrate model systems, such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. This review is dedicated to Drosophila as a genetic and cellular model to study axonal growth and demonstrates how it can and has been used for this research. We describe the various cellular systems of Drosophila used for such studies, insights into axonal growth cones and their cytoskeletal dynamics, and summarise identified molecular signalling pathways required for growth cone navigation, with particular focus on pathfinding decisions in the ventral nerve cord of Drosophila embryos. These Drosophila-specific aspects are viewed in the general context of our current knowledge about neuronal growth.
Over the past two decades, fundamental strides in physiology and genetics have allowed us to finally grasp the developmental mechanisms regulating body size, primarily in one model organism: the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In Drosophila, as in all animals, final body size is regulated by the rate and duration of growth. These studies have identified important roles for the insulin and the target of rapamycin (TOR) signaling pathways in regulating the growth rate of the larva, the stage most important in determining final adult size. Furthermore, they have shown that the insulin/TOR pathway interacts with hormonal systems, like ecdysone and juvenile hormone, to regulate the timing of development and hence the duration of growth. This interaction allows the growing larvae to integrate cues from the environment with environmentally sensitive developmental windows to ensure that optimal size and proportions are reached given the larval rearing conditions. Results from this work have opened up new avenues of studies, including how environmental cues are integrated to regulate developmental time and how organs maintain proportional growth. Other researchers interested in the evolution of body size are beginning to apply these results to studies of body size evolution and the generation of allometry. With these new findings, and with the developments to come, the field of size control finds itself in the fortunate position of finally being able to tackle century old questions of how organisms achieve final adult size and proportions. This review discusses the state of the art of size control from a Drosophila perspective, and outlines an approach to resolving outstanding issues.
environmental effects on body size; insulin/target of rapamycin signaling; ecdysone; juvenile hormone; regulation of organ growth; growth rates; developmental timing; genetics of body size and proportions
How size is controlled during animal development remains a fascinating problem despite decades of research. Here we review key concepts in size biology and develop our thesis that much can be learned by studying how different organ sizes are differentially scaled by homeotic selector genes. A common theme from initial studies using this approach is that morphogen pathways are modified in numerous ways by selector genes to effect size control. We integrate these results with other pathways known to regulate organ size in developing a comprehensive model for organ size control.
Selector genes modify developmental pathways to sculpt animal body parts. Although body parts differ in size, the ways in which selector genes create size differences are unknown. We have studied how the Drosophila Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) limits the size of the haltere, which, by the end of larval development, has ∼fivefold fewer cells than the wing. We find that Ubx controls haltere size by restricting both the transcription and the mobility of the morphogen Decapentaplegic (Dpp). Ubx restricts Dpp’s distribution in the haltere by increasing the amounts of the Dpp receptor, thickveins. Because morphogens control tissue growth in many contexts, these findings provide a potentially general mechanism for how selector genes modify organ sizes.
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is increasingly utilized as an alternative to costly rodent models to study human diseases. Fly models exist for a wide variety of human conditions, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s Disease, or cardiac function. Advantages of the fly system are its rapid generation time and its low cost. However, the greatest strength of the fly system are the powerful genetic tools that allow for rapid dissection of molecular disease mechanisms. Here, we describe the diet-dependent development of metabolic phenotypes in adult fruit flies. Depending on the specific type of nutrient, as well as its relative quantity in the diet, flies show weight gain and changes in the levels of storage macromolecules. Furthermore, the activity of insulin-signaling in the major metabolic organ of the fly, the fat body, decreases upon overfeeding. This decrease in insulin-signaling activity in overfed flies is moreover observed when flies are challenged with an acute food stimulus, suggesting that overfeeding leads to insulin resistance. Similar changes were observed in aging flies, with the development of the insulin resistance-like phenotype beginning at early middle ages. Taken together, these data demonstrate that imbalanced diet disrupts metabolic homeostasis in adult D. melanogaster and promotes insulin-resistant phenotypes. Therefore, the fly system may be a useful alternative tool in the investigation of molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance and the development of pharmacologic treatment options.
Diabetes; Drosophila melanogaster; Insulin signaling; Insulin resistance; Diet
The regulation of static allometry is a fundamental developmental process, yet little is understood of the mechanisms that ensure organs scale correctly across a range of body sizes. Recent studies have revealed the physiological and genetic mechanisms that control nutritional variation in the final body and organ size in holometabolous insects. The implications these mechanisms have for the regulation of static allometry is, however, unknown. Here, we formulate a mathematical description of the nutritional control of body and organ size in Drosophila melanogaster and use it to explore how the developmental regulators of size influence static allometry. The model suggests that the slope of nutritional static allometries, the ‘allometric coefficient’, is controlled by the relative sensitivity of an organ's growth rate to changes in nutrition, and the relative duration of development when nutrition affects an organ's final size. The model also predicts that, in order to maintain correct scaling, sensitivity to changes in nutrition varies among organs, and within organs through time. We present experimental data that support these predictions. By revealing how specific physiological and genetic regulators of size influence allometry, the model serves to identify developmental processes upon which evolution may act to alter scaling relationships.
allometry; insulin; body-size regulation
Morphogen gradients play a fundamental role in organ patterning and organ growth. Unlike their role in patterning, their function in regulating the growth and the size of organs is poorly understood. How and why do morphogen gradients exert their mitogenic effects to generate uniform proliferation in developing organs, and by what means can morphogens impinge on the final size of organs? The decapentaplegic (Dpp) gradient in the Drosophila wing imaginal disc has emerged as a suitable and established system to study organ growth. Here, we review models and recent findings that attempt to address how the Dpp morphogen contributes to uniform proliferation of cells, and how it may regulate the final size of wing discs.
Decapentaplegic (DPP) in the fly wing provides a good model for regulation of organ growth. DPP signals affect both cell survival and cell proliferation, controlling wing patterning and wing size.
Animal shape and size is controlled with amazing precision during development. External factors such as nutrient availability and crowding can alter overall animal size, but individual body parts scale reproducibly to match the body even with challenges from a changing environment. How is such precision achieved? Here, we review selected research from the last few years in Drosophila - arguably the premier genetic model for study of animal growth - that sheds light on how body and tissue size are regulated by forces intrinsic to individual organs. We focus on two topics currently under intense study: the influence of pattern regulators on organ and tissue growth, and the role of local competitive interactions between cells in tissue homeostasis and final size.
Organ and tissue size; imaginal disc; cell competition; pattern regulation; cell-cell interactions
The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has a long and rich history as an important model organism for biologists. In particular, study of the fruit fly has been essential to much of our fundamental understanding of the development and function of the nervous system. In recent years, studies using fruit flies have provided important insights into the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. Fly models of spinal muscular atrophy, spinobulbar muscular atrophy, myotonic dystrophy, dystrophinopathies and other inherited neuromuscular diseases recapitulate many of the key pathologic features of the human disease. The ability to perform genetic screens holds promise for uncovering the molecular mechanisms of disease, and indeed, for identifying novel therapeutic targets. This review will summarize recent progress in developing fly models of neuromuscular diseases and will emphasize the contribution that Drosophila has made to our understanding of these diseases.
Males and females of almost all organisms exhibit sexual differences in body size, a phenomenon called sexual size dimorphism (SSD). How the sexes evolve to be different sizes, despite sharing the same genes that control growth and development, and hence a common genetic architecture, has remained elusive. Here, we show that the genetic architecture (heritabilities and genetic correlations) of the physiological mechanism that regulates size during the last stage of larval development of a moth, differs between the sexes, and thus probably facilitates, rather than hinders, the evolution of SSD. We further show that the endocrine system plays a critical role in generating SSD. Our results demonstrate that knowledge of the genetic architecture underlying the physiological process during development that ultimately produces SSD in adults can elucidate how males and females of organisms evolve to be of different sizes.
sexual dimorphism; physiology; quantitative genetics; body size
The compound eye of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has for decades been used extensively to study a number of critical developmental processes including tissue development, pattern formation, cell fate specification and planar cell polarity. To a lesser degree it has been used to examine the cell cycle and tissue proliferation. Discovering the mechanisms that balance tissue growth and cell death in developing epithelia has traditionally been the realm of those using the wing disc. However, over the last decade a series of observations has demonstrated that the eye is a suitable and maybe even preferable tissue for studying tissue growth. This review will focus on how growth of the retina is controlled by the genes and pathways that govern the specification of tissue fate, the division of the epithelium into dorsal-ventral compartments, the initiation and progression of the morphogenetic furrow and the second mitotic wave.
Drosophila; retina; cell proliferation; growth
The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is an excellent organism for the study of the genetic and molecular basis of metazoan development. Drosophila provides numerous tools and reagents to unravel the molecular and cellular functions of genes that cause human disease, and the past decade has witnessed a significant expansion of the study of neurodegenerative disease mechanisms in flies. Here we review the interplay between oxidative stress and neuronal toxicity. We cover some of the studies that show how proteasome degradation of protein aggregates, autophagy, mitophagy, and lysosomal function affect the quality control mechanisms required for neuronal survival. We discuss how forward genetic screens in flies have led to the isolation of a few loci that cause neurodegeneration, paving the way for large-scale systematic screens to identify such loci in flies as well as promoting gene discovery in humans.
oxidative stress; autophagy; protein degradation; Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
The fruit fly Drosophila has contributed significantly to our general understanding of the basic principles of signaling, cell and developmental biology, and neurobiology. However, answers to questions pertaining to energy metabolism have been so far mostly addressed in more complex model organisms such as mice. We review in this article recent studies that show how the genetic tractability and simplicity of Drosophila are being used to identify novel regulatory mechanisms at the organismal level, and to query the co-ordination between energy metabolism and other processes such as neurodegeneration, circadian rhythms, immunity, and tumor biology.
Despite obvious differences such as the ability to fly, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is similar to humans at many different levels of complexity. Studies of development, cell growth and division, metabolism, and even cognition, have borne out these similarities. For example, Drosophila bearing mutations in the fly gene homologue of the known human disease Fragile X, are affected in fundamentally similar ways as affected humans. The ramification of this degree of similarity is that Drosophila, as a model organism, is a rich resource for learning about human cells, development and even human cognition and behavior. Drosophila has a short generation time of ten days, is cheap to propagate and maintain and has a vast array of genetic tools available to it; making Drosophila an extremely attractive organism for the study of human disease. Here, we summarize research from our lab and others using Drosophila to understand the human neurological disease, called Fragile X. We focus on the Drosophila model of fragile X, its characterization, and use as a tool to identify potential drugs for the treatment of Fragile X. Several clinical trials are in progress now that were motivated by this research.
Disease Modeling; Fragile X; Drosophila; Pharmacological Treatments; Autism; Cognitive impairment
Expression of dominant-negative (DN) versions of the Drosophila ortholog of the tumor suppressor p53 extends fly life span in a Calorie Restriction (CR) dependent manner. DN-Dmp53 expression furthermore leads to reduction of Drosophila insulin-like peptide (dILP) 2 mRNA levels and a decrease in insulin/insulin-like growth factor-signaling activity (IIS) in the fly fat body. It is unclear by which mechanisms DN-Dmp53 extends longevity, and whether modulation of insulin-signaling activity plays a pivotal role in life span regulation by Dmp53. Here we show that life span extension due to DN-Dmp53 expression is likely due to reduction of Dmp53 activity and that decreased Dmp53 activity does not extend life span when dILP2 is concomitantly over expressed. Furthermore, extended longevity due to DN-Dmp53 expression does not further extend the life span of flies over expressing the IIS associated transcription factor dFoxO, indicating that DN-Dmp53-dependent life span extension may be related to IIS. However, reduction of dFoxO levels does not decrease DN-Dmp53-dependent longevity extension. Interestingly, when DN-Dmp53 is expressed in flies lacking the translation initiation controlling factor Thor/4E-BP, the downstream target of dTOR signaling, no increase in life span is observed. Taken together, these data suggest that Dmp53 may affect life span by differentially engaging the IIS and dTor pathways.
p53; Dmp53; calorie restriction; TOR; 4E-BP; Thor; Drosophila melanogaster
Recent studies have indicated that the insulin-signaling pathway controls body and organ size in Drosophila, and most metazoans, by signaling nutritional conditions to the growing organs. The temporal requirements for insulin signaling during development are, however, unknown. Using a temperature-sensitive insulin receptor (Inr) mutation in Drosophila, we show that the developmental requirements for Inr activity are organ specific and vary in time. Early in development, before larvae reach the “critical size” (the size at which they commit to metamorphosis and can complete development without further feeding), Inr activity influences total development time but not final body and organ size. After critical size, Inr activity no longer affects total development time but does influence final body and organ size. Final body size is affected by Inr activity from critical size until pupariation, whereas final organ size is sensitive to Inr activity from critical size until early pupal development. In addition, different organs show different sensitivities to changes in Inr activity for different periods of development, implicating the insulin pathway in the control of organ allometry. The reduction in Inr activity is accompanied by a two-fold increase in free-sugar levels, similar to the effect of reduced insulin signaling in mammals. Finally, we find that varying the magnitude of Inr activity has different effects on cell size and cell number in the fly wing, providing a potential linkage between the mode of action of insulin signaling and the distinct downstream controls of cell size and number. We present a model that incorporates the effects of the insulin-signaling pathway into the Drosophila life cycle. We hypothesize that the insulin-signaling pathway controls such diverse effects as total developmental time, total body size and organ size through its effects on the rate of cell growth, and proliferation in different organs.
Studies using a temperature-sensitive insulin receptor elucidate the temporal requirements for insulin signaling in Drosophila; insulin signaling at different times during development affects many characters, such as total developmental time, total body size and organ size.
Conservation of major signaling pathways between humans and flies has made Drosophila a useful model organism for cancer research. Our understanding of the mechanisms regulating cell growth, differentiation and development has been considerably advanced by studies in Drosophila. Several recent high profile studies have examined the processes constraining the metastatic growth of tumor cells in fruit fly models. Cell invasion can be studied in the context of an in vivo setting in flies, enabling the genetic requirements of the microenvironment of tumor cells undergoing metastasis to be analyzed. This Perspective discusses the strengths and limitations of Drosophila models of cancer invasion and the unique tools that have enabled these studies. It also highlights several recent reports that together make a strong case for Drosophila as a system with the potential for both testing novel concepts in tumor progression and cell invasion, and for uncovering players in metastasis.
The Mal/SRF transcription factor is regulated by the level of G-actin in cells and has important roles in cell migration and other actin-dependent processes in Drosophila. A recent report suggests that Mal/SRF and an upstream regulator, Pico, are required for cell proliferation and tissue growth in Drosophila. I find otherwise. Mutation of Mal or SRF does not affect cell proliferation in the fly wing. Furthermore, I cannot reproduce the reported effects of Pico RNAi or Pico overexpression on body size. Nevertheless, I can confirm that overexpression of Pico or Mal causes tissue overgrowth specifically in the fly wing - where SRF is most highly expressed. My results indicate that Mal/SRF can promote tissue growth when abnormally active, but is not normally required for tissue growth during development.
A phylogenetically conserved response to nutritional abundance is an increase in insulin signaling, which initiates a set of biological responses dependent on the species. Consequences of augmented insulin signaling include developmental progression, cell and organ growth, and the storage of carbohydrates and lipids. Here, we address the evolutionary origins of insulin's positive effects on anabolic lipid metabolism by selectively modulating insulin signaling in the fat body of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Analogous to the actions of insulin in higher vertebrates, those in Drosophila include expansion of the insect fat cell mass both by increasing the adipocyte number and by promoting lipid accumulation. The ability of insulin to accomplish the former depends on its capacity to bring about phosphorylation and inhibition of the transcription factor Drosophila FOXO (dFOXO) and the serine/threonine protein kinase shaggy, the fly ortholog of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3). Increasing the amount of triglyceride per cell also depends on the phosphorylation of shaggy but is independent of dFOXO. Thus, the findings of this study provide evidence that the control of fat mass by insulin is a conserved process and place dFOXO and shaggy/GSK3 downstream of the insulin receptor in controlling adipocyte cell number and triglyceride storage, respectively.
Due to its genetic, molecular, and behavioral tractability, Drosophila has emerged as a powerful model system for studying molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the development and function of nervous systems. The Drosophila nervous system has fewer neurons and exhibits a lower glia:neuron ratio than is seen in vertebrate nervous systems. Despite the simplicity of the Drosophila nervous system, glial organization in flies is as sophisticated as it is in vertebrates. Furthermore, fly glial cells play vital roles in neural development and behavior. In addition, powerful genetic tools are continuously being created to explore cell function in vivo. In taking advantage of these features, the fly nervous system serves as an excellent model system to study general aspects of glial cell development and function in vivo. In this article, we review and discuss advanced genetic tools that are potentially useful for understanding glial cell biology in Drosophila.
Glial cell biology; Drosophila; genetic tools; GAL4/UAS; MARCM
The structure of roots has been studied for many years, but despite their importance to the growth and well-being of plants, most researchers tend to ignore them. This is unfortunate, because their simple body plan makes it possible to study complex developmental pathways without the complications sometimes found in the shoot. In this illustrated essay, my objective is to describe the body plan of the root and the root apical meristem (RAM) and point out the control points where differentiation and cell cycle decisions are made. Hopefully this outline will assist plant biologists in identifying the structural context for their observations.
Scope and Conclusions
This short paper outlines the types of RAM, i.e. basic-open, intermediate-open and closed, shows how they are similar and different, and makes the point that the structure and shape of the RAM are not static, but changes in shape, size and organization occur depending on root growth rate and development stage. RAMs with a closed organization lose their outer root cap layers in sheets of dead cells, while those with an open organization release living border cells from the outer surfaces of the root cap. This observation suggests a possible difference in the mechanisms whereby roots with different RAM types communicate with soil-borne micro-organisms. The root body is organized in cylinders, sectors (xylem and phloem in the vascular cylinder), cell files, packets and modules, and individual cells. The differentiation in these root development units is regulated at control points where genetic regulation is needed, and the location of these tissue-specific control points can be modulated as a function of root growth rate. In Arabidopsis thaliana the epidermis and peripheral root cap develop through a highly regulated series of steps starting with a periclinal division of an initial cell, the root cap/protoderm (RCP) initial. The derivative cells from the RCP initial divide into two cells, the inner cell divides again to renew the RCP and the other cell divides through four cycles to form 16 epidermal cells in a packet; the outer cell divides through four cycles to form the 16 cells making up the peripheral root cap packet. Together, the epidermal packet and the peripheral root cap packet make up a module of cells which are clonally related.
Root apical meristem; RAM; cell cycle; differentiation; peripheral root cap; closed RAM organization; open RAM organization; epidermis; module; determination; levels of organization; plasmodesmata; T-division; root cap/protoderm initial; columella initial
A remarkable discovery of recent years is that, despite the complexity of ageing, simple genetic interventions can increase lifespan and improve health during ageing in laboratory animals. The pathways involved have often proved to sense nutrients and to match costly activities of organisms, such as growth, metabolism and reproduction, to nutrient status. For instance, the insulin/insulin-like growth factor and Target of Rapamycin signalling network has proved to play a function in ageing, from yeast to mammals, seemingly including humans. In the fruit fly Drosophila, altered activity of several components of this network can increase lifespan and improve locomotor and cardiac function during ageing. The fly brain, fat body (equivalent of mammalian liver and white adipose tissue) and the germ line are important in determination of lifespan, with considerable communication between different tissues. Cellular detoxification pathways, increased autophagy and altered protein synthesis have all been implicated in increased lifespan from reduced IIS/TOR activity, with the role of defence against oxidative stress unresolved. Reduced IIS/TOR signalling can alter or block the response of lifespan to dietary restriction. Reduced IIS can act acutely to lower death rate, implying that it may ameliorate the effects of ageing-related damage, rather than preventing it.
► Mutations in nutrient sensing pathways extend lifespan in many organisms, including Drosophila. ► Insulin/insulin-like and TOR signalling are two such pathways. ► Interactions between nutrition, signalling and possible mechanisms are discussed.
Aging; Drosophila; Insulin/Igf signalling; TOR; Dietary restriction
The selective pressures leading to the evolution of Sexual Size Dimorphism (SSD) have been well studied in many organisms, yet, the underlying developmental mechanisms are poorly understood. By generating a complete growth profile by sex in Drosophila melanogaster, we describe the sex-specific pattern of growth responsible for SSD. Growth rate and critical size for pupariation significantly contributed to adult SSD, whereas duration of growth did not. Surprisingly, SSD at peak larval mass was twice that of the uneclosed adult SSD with weight loss between peak larval mass and pupariation playing an important role in generating the final SSD. Our finding that weight loss is an important regulator of SSD adds additional complexity to our understanding of how body size is regulated in different sexes. Collectively, these data allow for the elucidation of the molecular-genetic mechanisms that generate SSD, an important component of understanding how SSD evolves.