Signals and mechanics shaping compartment boundaries in Drosophila

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



During animal development groups of cells with similar fates and functions often stay together and separate from cells with different fates. An example for this cellular behavior is the formation of compartments, groups of cells with similar fates that are separated by sharp boundaries from neighboring groups of cells. Compartments play important roles during patterning by serving as units of growth and gene expression. Boundaries between compartments are associated with organizers that secrete signaling molecules instructing growth and differentiation throughout the tissue. The straight shape of the boundary between compartments is important for maintaining the position and shape of the organizer and thus for precise patterning. The straight shape of compartment boundaries, however, is challenged by cell divisions and cell intercalations that take place in many developing tissues. Early work established a role for selector genes and signaling pathways in setting up and keeping boundaries straight. Recent work in Drosophila has now begun to further unravel the physical and cellular mechanisms that maintain compartment boundaries. Key to the separation of compartments is a local increase of actomyosin-dependent mechanical tension at cell junctions along the boundary. Increased mechanical tension acts as a barrier to cell mixing during cell division and influences cell rearrangements during cell intercalations along the compartment boundary in a way that the straight shape of the boundary is maintained. An important question for the future is how the signaling pathways that maintain the straight shape of compartment boundaries control mechanical tension along these boundaries.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-417
Number of pages11
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2015

External IDs

PubMed 25755098