Cell and Developmental BiologyDevelopment and morphogenesis in Drosophila

Development and morphogenesis in Drosophila

Jordi Casanova

Group Leader

Professor (IBMB-CSIC)

+34 93 40 34967

Studies on the genetic control of development have proven to be very been fruitful in unveiling the mechanisms impaired in many disease conditions. This is particularly true in the case of cancer and associated illnesses, as can be assessed by the wealth of knowledge obtained from the study of the developmental role of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes, the studies of cell migration, epithelial-mesenchymal transition and vasculogenesis. In this regard, the focus of our research at the IRB is to advance in providing basic knowledge on the genetic regulation of such developmental processes, and in particular in their control by cell communication mechanisms. Our aim is to study those phenomena in the context of the whole organism and to do so we use Drosophila melanogaster as a tool. The choice of Drosophila as a model system to study the basic phenomena in development has proved to be extremely fruitful. The broad conservation of the developmental key genes identified in Drosophila and the basic similarity between developmental processes in different species justifies the choice of an organism as a model system.

The work of many laboratories has allowed to begin to understand the genetics logic behind development and we are now trying to understand how these mechanisms impinge on cell behaviour. In particular, we put our emphasis on the issue of the supracellular organisation and more precisely on how individual cell changes can generate an upper level of complexity such the one found in tissues and organs. We work in this research field using two Drosophila models already well known in the lab (the transduction pathway specifying the embryonic terminal regions and the tracheal system), as well as another one more recently added (the morphogenesis of the endoderm and gut). We hope that a global approach using these three systems will allow us unveil how transcription factors and signalling pathways trigger and coordinate changes in cell issues such as shape, polarity and adhesion into collective organization and migration. In performing this global approach we also consider an evolutionary perspective that could account for the recruitment of already existing mechanisms into distinct processes or for their particular redeployment to explain appearance of different kinds of supracellular organization. Finally, we hope this approach will be also crucial to provide an understanding of some of the mechanisms involved in disease conditions and in particular in oncogenesis. To this aim, we have fostered our collaboration with some research groups from the oncology programme.

  • Analysis of the mechanisms responsible for the localized activation of the Torso receptor tyrosine kinase.
  • Analysis of gene expression regulation by the Torso transduction pathway, especially in relation with the inactivation of the capicua repressor.
  • Analysis of cell adhesion and cytoskeleton regulation during migration and tube formation in the tracheal system.
  • Properties of the collective cell migration.
  • The role of GATA factors in the endoderm epithelial-to-mese.nchymal transition (EMT).
Djabrayan NJ, Cruz J, de Miguel C, Franch-Marro X and Casanova J.
Cell Rep, 9 (3), 859-865 (2014)
Casanova J.
Embo Rep, 13 (5), 396-7 (2012)
Campbell K, Whissell G, Franch-Marro X, Batlle E and Casanova J.
Dev Cell, 21 (6), 1051-61 (2011)
Brodu V, Baffet AD, Le Droguen PM, Casanova J* and Guichet A*.
Dev Cell, 18 (5), 790-801 (2010)
Gervais L and Casanova J.
Curr Biol, 20 (4), 359-66 (2010)
Shaye DD, Casanova J* and Llimargas M*.
Nat Cell Biol, 10 (8), 964-70 (2008)

* shared senior authorship

This groups is financially supported by:

  • Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (MEC - Spanish Ministry of  Science & Education)

Group news & mentions

18 Aug 2015

Various digital media have echoed the new function that researchers from IRB Barcelona have found for E-Cadherin (E-Cad) protein, recently published in Nature Communications.

<p>In a developing Drosophila embryo, (above) E-Cadherin keep cells together to facilitate coordinated migration; (below) without E-Cad cells are disorganised. (J Casanova lab)</p>
14 Aug 2015

The protein E-Cadherin (E-Cad) is a kind of adhesive that keeps cells tightly bound together, thus favouring the organisation of tissues and organs.

<p>Image of the last "On the fly" programme (2012)</p>
29 May 2015

Today and tomorrow, 15 secondary school teachers are going to get up to date with scientific concepts at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) through the course “On the fly”.

22 May 2015

Various media, including El Mundo, have echoed the European Light Microscopy Initiative (ELMI) international congress, which has gathered leading experts in microscopy this week in Sitges.

Upcoming events

19 Feb
Sala Fèlix Serratosa, Parc Científic de Barcelona
Andrés López-Contreras, PhD, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
26 Feb
Felix Serratosa, Parc Científic de Barcelona
Fernando Martin-Belmonte, PhD - Dept. Development and Regeneration Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CSIC-UAM) Madrid , Spain
03 Mar
Aula Fèlix Serratosa, Parc Científic de Barcelona
Diego Pasini, PhD. Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology. Milano (Italy)