The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 64: 275 - 287 (2020)

Vol 64, Issue 4-5-6

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in India - Second Part

Cyto-architecture constrains the spread of photoactivated tubulin in the syncytial Drosophila embryo

Published: 23 June 2020

Sameer Thukral1, Bivash Kaity2, Bipasha Dey1, Swati Sharma1, Amitabha Nandi2, Mithun K. Mitra2 and Richa Rikhy*,1

1Biology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pashan, Pune and 2Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India


Drosophila embryogenesis begins with nuclear division in a common cytoplasm forming a syncytial cell. Morphogen gradient molecules spread across nucleo-cytoplasmic domains to pattern the body axis of the syncytial embryo. The diffusion of molecules across the syncytial nucleo-cytoplasmic domains is potentially constrained by association with the components of cellular architecture. However, the extent of restriction has not been examined. Here we use photoactivation (PA) to generate a source of cytoplasmic or cytoskeletal molecules in order to monitor the kinetics of their spread in the syncytial Drosophila embryo. Photoactivated PA-GFP and PA-GFP-Tubulin generated within a fixed anterior area diffused along the antero-posterior axis. These molecules were enriched in the cortical cytoplasm above the yolk-filled center, suggesting that the cortical cytoplasm is phase separated from the yolk-filled center. The length scales of diffusion were extracted using exponential fits under steady state assumptions. PA-GFP spread a greater distance as compared to PA-GFP-Tubulin. Both molecules were more restricted when generated in the center of the embryo. The length scale of spread for PA-GFP-Tubulin increased in mutant embryos containing short plasma membrane furrows and a disrupted tubulin cytoskeleton. PA-GFP spread was unaffected by cyto-architecture perturbation. Taken together, these data show that PA-GFP-Tubulin spread is restricted by its incorporation in the microtubule network and intact plasma membrane furrows. This photoactivation based analysis of protein spread allows for interpretation of the dependence of gradient formation on syncytial cyto-architecture.


syncytium, photoactivation, Drosophila, embryogenesis, morphogen gradient, Bicoid

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