Embryogenesis is the product of pattern formation and tissue morphogenesis. We are interested in how cells that are specified by pattern formation change their shape in order to form the various tissues and structures within an animal. As a model system, we study ventral furrow formation in Drosophila embryos. This is the first major morphogenetic event in the embryo that involves the in-folding of a swath of cells on the ventral surface of the embryo to form the presumptive mesoderm (muscles, fat, and immune cells). We have taken a proteomics approach to find protein differences between ventral cells and their lateral neighbors. We have identified over fifty protein changes, half or which are due to post-translational modification. We use time-lapse microscopy and RNAi to assess the role of ventral-specific proteins. We are actively studying a number of interesting proteins that are required for ventral furrow formation.
Shown here is a time-lapse movie of ventral furrow formation in a wild-type embryo that expresses nuclear-GFP.