How organs coordinate their development with body

Believe it or not, during growth our organs do not develop synchronously with the body’s development.

Instead, the organs’ growth is coordinated with the whole body at distinct ‘milestones’.

The development of wings in fruit flies does not progress synchronously with the organism’s development, the findings showed.

The study helps explain how an organism facing environmental and physiological perturbations retains the ability to build correct functional organs and tissues in a proportional adult body.

“With this work we propose a new paradigm for thinking about organ-organ and organ-body coordination during development,” said Marisa Oliveira from Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal.

“We suggest that organisms achieve this coordination not by continuous but rather by discrete communication focused on developmental milestones,” Oliveira added.

The researchers studied how organ and whole-body development is coordinated, using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism.

The juvenile period in the fruit fly comprises three larval moults, followed by a wandering stage where larvae leave the food and search for a site to begin metamorphosis at a stage called pupariation.

The research team focused on these so-called developmental events to study how the development of wings is coordinated with the whole body of the fruit fly larvae.

The researchers first analysed the expression of six genes involved in the development of wings in normal conditions of growth, that is, at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, and generated a detailed staging scheme.

Next, the researchers changed the temperature to affect the growth conditions of the larvae and analysed the rate of wing development compared to the whole-body development.

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It is known that flies grow faster at higher temperatures and slower at lower temperatures.

However, the researchers observed that the development of the wings was slower at 29 degrees Celsius, compared to flies growing in normal conditions or flies growing at 18 degrees Celsius.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

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