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Biological origami: tissue remodeling in insect embryos

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Early in development a protective fluid-filled sac forms around an embryo. In humans, this sac bursts during birth, but the sac surrounding insect embryos ruptures long before these animals begin to emerge from their eggs. The sac that surrounds insect embryos has two layers: an inner layer called the amnion, and a tough outer layer called the serosa. Unlike passive rupture of the human chorioamnion at birth, the insect extraembryonic (EE) tissues – the amnion and serosa – actively rupture and withdraw in late embryogenesis. Withdrawal is essential for development and has been a morphogenetic puzzle. Here, we use new fluorescent transgenic lines in the beetle Tribolium castaneum to show that the EE tissues dynamically form a basal-basal epithelial bilayer, contradicting the previous hypothesis of EE intercalation. We find that the EE tissues repeatedly detach and reattach throughout development and have distinct roles. Quantitative live imaging analyses show that the amnion initiates EE rupture in a specialized anterior-ventral cap. RNAi phenotypes demonstrate that the serosa contracts autonomously. Thus, apposition in a bilayer enables the amnion as ‘initiator’ to coordinate with the serosa as ‘driver’ to achieve withdrawal. This EE strategy may reflect evolutionary changes within the holometabolous insects and serves as a model to study interactions between developing epithelia.

This talk is part of the DAMTP BioLunch series.

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