Cell and Developmental BiologyDevelopment and morphogenesis in Drosophila

Development and morphogenesis in Drosophila

Jordi Casanova

Group Leader

Professor (IBMB-CSIC)

+34 93 40 34967

Development of multicellular organisms requires changes in cell populations in terms of their proliferation, differentiation, morphology and migration. These synchronized changes are controlled by the genes specifying cell fate and by the ability of cells to respond to extracellular cues.

This is achieved by means of signalling mechanisms that elicit cellular responses that ultimately will be responsible for the morphogenetic events during development. Two key steps in these events are the mechanisms controlling the appropriate spatial and temporal activation of the signalling pathways and the mechanisms linking these pathways with the cell effectors to elicit cell responses in terms of gene activity or cell morphology.

The choice of Drosophila melanogaster as a model system to study the basic phenomena in development has prooved to be extremely fruitful, due to the merge of the approaches from embriology, genetic and molecular biology studies. The broad conservation of the developmental key genes identified in Drosophila reinforces the assumption that the basic mechanisms governing development are of general relevance.

Our interest is focused on the role of cell communication mechanisms in development in the context of the whole organism. In particular, we are analysing such mechanisms in three model systems in Drosophila.

The first model is the Torso RTK system that allows us to study the spatial control of its activation and its potential to generate more than one response. In this context, we are also studying the activity of capicua, a gene we identified as a repressor that is inhibited by Torso signalling.

The second model is the formation of the Drosophila tracheal system, a process that allows us to study morphogenesis, which involves several cellular processes such as specification of individual cell fates, cell shape changes and cell migration. Finally we have recently started a new line of research, analyzing the mechanism that allows cells to measure the extracellular gradient of the morphogen Hedgehog.

  • Analysis of the mechanisms responsible for the localized activation of the Torso receptor.
  • Identification of new elements in the Torso signalling pathway.
  • 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 cell interactions during migration and tube formation in the tracheal system.
  • Cytoskeleton regulation by signalling pathways during tracheal cell invagiantion, migration and tube formation
  • Cellular and molecular interactions during neural and tracheal morphogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster
  • Hedgehog morphogen gradient interpretation in Drosophila imaginal wing discs
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)
de Las Heras JM, Martinho RG, Lehmann R and Casanova J.
Embo Rep, 10 (9), 1059-65 (2009)
Shaye DD, Casanova J and Llimargas M.
Nat Cell Biol, 10 (8), 964-70 (2008)
Furriols M, Ventura G and Casanova J
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 104 (28), 11660?65 (2007)

Group news & mentions

30 Oct 2014

The study by Jordi Casanova and first-authored by postdoctoral fellow Nareg J.-V. Djabrayan at IRB Barcelona, together with researchers at CSIC, has been echoed in the media.


29 Oct 2014

One kind of stem cell, those referred to as ‘facultative’, form part—together with other cells—of tissues and organs. There is apparently nothing that differentiates these cells from the others.

9 Oct 2014

Andreu Casali’s study published in EmboReports on research into colon cancer performed in the fly has caught the attention of the  media.

8 Oct 2014

Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) have managed to generate a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) model that reproduces human colon cancer.

Upcoming events

07 Jan

Speaker: Francisco Freixo, PhD Student, IRB Barcelona, Spain


07 Jan

Speaker: Francisco Freixo, PhD Student, IRB Barcelona, Spain


09 Jan

Speaker: Dr.Eduard Batlle,

ICREA Research professor, Group Leader Colorectal Cancer Lab, Oncology Programme Head- IRB Barcelona, Spain

22 Jan

Speaker: Ernst Lengyel,

MD PhD- Chairman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology- Arthur L. and Lee G. Herbst Professor of Obstetrics and Gymecology- University of Chicago Medicine (USA)



This groups is financially supported by:

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