* joined first author # joined corresponding author

Johannes Girstmair, HongKee Moon, Charlène Brillard, Robert Haase, Pavel Tomancak
Time to Upgrade: A New OpenSPIM Guide to Build and Operate Advanced OpenSPIM Configurations.
Adv Biol (Weinh), 6(4) Art. No. e2101182 (2022)
Open Access DOI
OpenSPIM is an Open Access platform for Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM) and allows hundreds of laboratories around the world to generate and process light-sheet data in a cost-effective way due to open-source hardware and software. While setting up a basic OpenSPIM configuration can be achieved expeditiously, correctly assembling and operating more complex OpenSPIM configurations can be challenging for routine standard OpenSPIM users. Detailed instructions on how to equip an OpenSPIM with two illumination sides and two detection axes (X-OpenSPIM) are provided, and a solution is also provided on how the temperature can be controlled in the sample chamber. Additionally, it is demonstrated how to operate it by implementing an ArduinoUNO microcontroller and introducing μOpenSPIM, a new software plugin for OpenSPIM, to facilitate image acquisition. The new software works on any OpenSPIM configuration comes with drift correction functionality, on-the-fly image processing, and gives users more options in the way time-lapse movies are initially set up and saved. Step-by-step guides are also provided within the Supporting Information and on the website on how to align the lasers, configure the hardware, and acquire images using μOpenSPIM. With this, current OpenSPIM users are empowered in various ways, and newcomers striving to use more advanced OpenSPIM systems are helped.

B Duygu Özpolat#, Nadine Randel#, Elizabeth A Williams#, Luis Alberto Bezares-Calderón#, Gabriele Andreatta, Guillaume Balavoine, Paola Y Bertucci, David E K Ferrier, Maria Cristina Gambi, Eve Gazave, Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Jörg Hardege, Cameron Hird, Yu-Wen Hsieh, Jerome Hui, Kevin Nzumbi Mutemi, Stephan Q Schneider, Oleg Simakov, Hernando M Vergara, Michel Vervoort, Gáspár Jékely#, Kristin Tessmar-Raible#, Florian Raible#, Detlev Arendt#
The Nereid on the rise: Platynereis as a model system.
Evodevo, 12(1) Art. No. 10 (2021)
Open Access DOI
The Nereid Platynereis dumerilii (Audouin and Milne Edwards (Annales des Sciences Naturelles 1:195-269, 1833) is a marine annelid that belongs to the Nereididae, a family of errant polychaete worms. The Nereid shows a pelago-benthic life cycle: as a general characteristic for the superphylum of Lophotrochozoa/Spiralia, it has spirally cleaving embryos developing into swimming trochophore larvae. The larvae then metamorphose into benthic worms living in self-spun tubes on macroalgae. Platynereis is used as a model for genetics, regeneration, reproduction biology, development, evolution, chronobiology, neurobiology, ecology, ecotoxicology, and most recently also for connectomics and single-cell genomics. Research on the Nereid started with studies on eye development and spiralian embryogenesis in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Transitioning into the molecular era, Platynereis research focused on posterior growth and regeneration, neuroendocrinology, circadian and lunar cycles, fertilization, and oocyte maturation. Other work covered segmentation, photoreceptors and other sensory cells, nephridia, and population dynamics. Most recently, the unique advantages of the Nereid young worm for whole-body volume electron microscopy and single-cell sequencing became apparent, enabling the tracing of all neurons in its rope-ladder-like central nervous system, and the construction of multimodal cellular atlases. Here, we provide an overview of current topics and methodologies for P. dumerilii, with the aim of stimulating further interest into our unique model and expanding the active and vibrant Platynereis community.

Krishan Gupta, Manan Lalit, Aditya Biswas, Chad D Sanada, Cassandra Greene, Kyle Hukari, Ujjwal Maulik, Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay, Naveen Ramalingam, Gaurav Ahuja, Abhik Ghosh, Debarka Sengupta
Modeling expression ranks for noise-tolerant differential expression analysis of scRNA-seq data.
Genome Res, 31(4) 689-697 (2021)
Systematic delineation of complex biological systems is an ever-challenging and resource-intensive process. Single-cell transcriptomics allows us to study cell-to-cell variability in complex tissues at an unprecedented resolution. Accurate modeling of gene expression plays a critical role in the statistical determination of tissue-specific gene expression patterns. In the past few years, considerable efforts have been made to identify appropriate parametric models for single-cell expression data. The zero-inflated version of Poisson/negative binomial and log-normal distributions have emerged as the most popular alternatives owing to their ability to accommodate high dropout rates, as commonly observed in single-cell data. Although the majority of the parametric approaches directly model expression estimates, we explore the potential of modeling expression ranks, as robust surrogates for transcript abundance. Here we examined the performance of the discrete generalized beta distribution (DGBD) on real data and devised a Wald-type test for comparing gene expression across two phenotypically divergent groups of single cells. We performed a comprehensive assessment of the proposed method to understand its advantages compared with some of the existing best-practice approaches. We concluded that besides striking a reasonable balance between Type I and Type II errors, ROSeq, the proposed differential expression test, is exceptionally robust to expression noise and scales rapidly with increasing sample size. For wider dissemination and adoption of the method, we created an R package called ROSeq and made it available on the Bioconductor platform.

José M Martín-Durán, Bruno C Vellutini, Ferdinand Marlétaz, Viviana Cetrangolo, Nevena Cvetesic, Daniel Thiel, Simon Henriet, Xavier Grau-Bové, Allan M Carrillo-Baltodano, Wenjia Gu, Alexandra Kerbl, Yamile Marquez, Nicolas Bekkouche, Daniel Chourrout, Jose Luis Gómez-Skarmeta, Manuel Irimia, Boris Lenhard, Katrine Worsaae, Andreas Hejnol
Conservative route to genome compaction in a miniature annelid.
Nat Ecol Evol, 5(2) 231-242 (2020)
Open Access DOI
The causes and consequences of genome reduction in animals are unclear because our understanding of this process mostly relies on lineages with often exceptionally high rates of evolution. Here, we decode the compact 73.8-megabase genome of Dimorphilus gyrociliatus, a meiobenthic segmented worm. The D. gyrociliatus genome retains traits classically associated with larger and slower-evolving genomes, such as an ordered, intact Hox cluster, a generally conserved developmental toolkit and traces of ancestral bilaterian linkage. Unlike some other animals with small genomes, the analysis of the D. gyrociliatus epigenome revealed canonical features of genome regulation, excluding the presence of operons and trans-splicing. Instead, the gene-dense D. gyrociliatus genome presents a divergent Myc pathway, a key physiological regulator of growth, proliferation and genome stability in animals. Altogether, our results uncover a conservative route to genome compaction in annelids, reminiscent of that observed in the vertebrate Takifugu rubripes.

Alexandra B Schroeder, Ellen T A Dobson, Curtis Rueden, Pavel Tomancak, Florian Jug, Kevin W Eliceiri
The ImageJ ecosystem: Open-source software for image visualization, processing, and analysis.
Protein Sci, 30(1) 234-249 (2020)
For decades, biologists have relied on software to visualize and interpret imaging data. As techniques for acquiring images increase in complexity, resulting in larger multidimensional datasets, imaging software must adapt. ImageJ is an open-source image analysis software platform that has aided researchers with a variety of image analysis applications, driven mainly by engaged and collaborative user and developer communities. The close collaboration between programmers and users has resulted in adaptations to accommodate new challenges in image analysis that address the needs of ImageJ's diverse user base. ImageJ consists of many components, some relevant primarily for developers and a vast collection of user-centric plugins. It is available in many forms, including the widely used Fiji distribution. We refer to this entire ImageJ codebase and community as the ImageJ ecosystem. Here we review the core features of this ecosystem and highlight how ImageJ has responded to imaging technology advancements with new plugins and tools in recent years. These plugins and tools have been developed to address user needs in several areas such as visualization, segmentation, and tracking of biological entities in large, complex datasets. Moreover, new capabilities for deep learning are being added to ImageJ, reflecting a shift in the bioimage analysis community towards exploiting artificial intelligence. These new tools have been facilitated by profound architectural changes to the ImageJ core brought about by the ImageJ2 project. Therefore, we also discuss the contributions of ImageJ2 to enhancing multidimensional image processing and interoperability in the ImageJ ecosystem.

Akanksha Jain, Vladimir Ulman, Arghyadip Mukherjee, Mangal Prakash, Marina B Cuenca, Lokesh G Pimpale, Stefan Münster, Robert Haase, Kristen A Panfilio, Florian Jug, Stephan W. Grill, Pavel Tomancak#, Anastasios Pavlopoulos#
Regionalized tissue fluidization is required for epithelial gap closure during insect gastrulation.
Nat Commun, 11(1) Art. No. 5604 (2020)
Open Access DOI
Many animal embryos pull and close an epithelial sheet around the ellipsoidal egg surface during a gastrulation process known as epiboly. The ovoidal geometry dictates that the epithelial sheet first expands and subsequently compacts. Moreover, the spreading epithelium is mechanically stressed and this stress needs to be released. Here we show that during extraembryonic tissue (serosa) epiboly in the insect Tribolium castaneum, the non-proliferative serosa becomes regionalized into a solid-like dorsal region with larger non-rearranging cells, and a more fluid-like ventral region surrounding the leading edge with smaller cells undergoing intercalations. Our results suggest that a heterogeneous actomyosin cable contributes to the fluidization of the leading edge by driving sequential eviction and intercalation of individual cells away from the serosa margin. Since this developmental solution utilized during epiboly resembles the mechanism of wound healing, we propose actomyosin cable-driven local tissue fluidization as a conserved morphogenetic module for closure of epithelial gaps.

Giulia Serafini, Giorgia Giordani, Luca Grillini, Davide Andrenacci, Giuseppe Gargiulo, Valeria Cavaliere
The Impact of Drosophila Awd/NME1/2 Levels on Notch and Wg Signaling Pathways.
Int J Mol Sci, 21(19) Art. No. 7257 (2020)
Open Access DOI
Awd, the Drosophila homologue of NME1/2 metastasis suppressors, plays key roles in many signaling pathways. Mosaic analysis of the null awdJ2A4 allele showed that loss of awd gene function blocks Notch signaling and the expression of its target genes including the Wingless (Wg/Wnt1) morphogen. We also showed that RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated awd silencing (awdi) in larval wing disc leads to chromosomal instability (CIN) and to Jun amino-terminal kinases (JNK)-mediated cell death. Here we show that this cell death is independent of p53 activity. Based on our previous finding showing that forced survival of awdi-CIN cells leads to aneuploidy without the hyperproliferative effect, we investigated the Wg expression in awdi wing disc cells. Interestingly, the Wg protein is expressed in its correct dorso-ventral domain but shows an altered cellular distribution which impairs its signaling. Further, we show that RNAi-mediated knock down of awd in wing discs does not affect Notch signaling. Thus, our analysis of the hypomorphic phenotype arising from awd downregulation uncovers a dose-dependent effect of Awd in Notch and Wg signaling.

Manan Lalit, Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Yu-Wen Hsieh, Florian Jug#, Pavel Tomancak#
Registration of Multi-modal Volumetric Images by Establishing Cell Correspondence.
In: Computer vision - ECCV 2020 workshops : Glasgow, UK, August 23-28, 2020 : proceedings : Part 1 (2020)(Eds.) Adrien Bartoli (Lecture Notes in Computer Science ; 12535), Cham, Springer International Publishing (2020), 458-473
Early development of an animal from an egg involves a rapid increase in cell number and several cell fate specification events accompanied by dynamic morphogenetic changes. In order to correlate the morphological changes with the genetic events, one typically needs to monitor the living system with several imaging modalities offering different spatial and temporal resolution. Live imaging allows monitoring the embryo at a high temporal resolution and observing the morphological changes. On the other hand, confocal images of specimens fixed and stained for the expression of certain genes enable observing the transcription states of an embryo at specific time points during development with high spatial resolution. The two imaging modalities cannot, by definition, be applied to the same specimen and thus, separately obtained images of different specimens need to be registered. Biologically, the most meaningful way to register the images is by identifying cellular correspondences between these two imaging modalities. In this way, one can bring the two sources of information into a single domain and combine dynamic information on morphogenesis with static gene expression data. Here we propose a new computational pipeline for identifying cell-to-cell correspondences between images from multiple modalities and for using these correspondences to register 3D images within and across imaging modalities. We demonstrate this pipeline by combining four-dimensional recording of embryogenesis of Spiralian annelid ragworm Platynereis dumerilii with three-dimensional scans of fixed Platynereis dumerilii embryos stained for the expression of a variety of important developmental genes. We compare our approach with methods for aligning point clouds and show that we match the accuracy of these state-of-the-art registration pipelines on synthetic data. We show that our approach outperforms these methods on real biological imaging datasets. Importantly, our approach uniquely provides, in addition to the registration, also the non-redundant matching of corresponding, biologically meaningful entities within the registered specimen which is the prerequisite for generating biological insights from the combined datasets. The complete pipeline is available for public use through a Fiji plugin.

Mangal Prakash, Tim-Oliver Buchholz, Manan Lalit, Pavel Tomancak, Florian Jug, Alexander Krull
Leveraging Self-supervised Denoising for Image Segmentation.
In: IEEE ISBI 2020 : International Conference on Biomedical Imaging : April 2-7, 2020, Iowa City, Iowa, USA : symposium proceeding (2020) IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging, Piscataway, N.J., IEEE (2020), 428-432
Deep learning (DL) has arguably emerged as the method of choice for the detection and segmentation of biological structures in microscopy images. However, DL typically needs copious amounts of annotated training data that is for biomedical projects typically not available and excessively expensive to generate. Additionally, tasks become harder in the presence of noise, requiring even more high-quality training data. Hence, we propose to use denoising networks to improve the performance of other DL-based image segmentation methods. More specifically, we present ideas on how state-of-the-art self-supervised CARE networks can improve cell/nuclei segmentation in microscopy data. Using two state-of-the-art baseline methods, U-Net and StarDist, we show that our ideas consistently improve the quality of resulting segmentations, especially when only limited training data for noisy micrographs are available.

Mangal Prakash✳︎, Manan Lalit✳︎, Pavel Tomancak, Alexander Krull, Florian Jug
Fully Unsupervised Probabilistic Noise2Void.
In: IEEE ISBI 2020 : International Conference on Biomedical Imaging : April 2-7, 2020, Iowa City, Iowa, USA : symposium proceeding (2020) IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging, Piscataway, N.J., IEEE (2020), 154-158
Image denoising is the first step in many biomedical image analysis pipelines and Deep Learning (DL) based methods are currently best performing. A new category of DL methods such as Noise2Void or Noise2Self can be used fully unsupervised, requiring nothing but the noisy data. However, this comes at the price of reduced reconstruction quality. The recently proposed Probabilistic Noise2Void (PN2V) improves results, but requires an additional noise model for which calibration data needs to be acquired. Here, we present improvements to PN2V that (i) replace histogram based noise models by parametric noise models, and (ii) show how suitable noise models can be created even in the absence of calibration data. This is a major step since it actually renders PN2V fully unsupervised. We demonstrate that all proposed improvements are not only academic but indeed relevant.

Ritika Giri, Dimitrios Papadopoulos, Diana M Posadas, Hemanth K Potluri, Pavel Tomancak, Madhav Mani#, Richard W Carthew#
Ordered patterning of the sensory system is susceptible to stochastic features of gene expression.
Elife, 9 Art. No. e53638 (2020)
Open Access DOI
Sensory neuron numbers and positions are precisely organized to accurately map environmental signals in the brain. This precision emerges from biochemical processes within and between cells that are inherently stochastic. We investigated impact of stochastic gene expression on pattern formation, focusing on senseless (sens), a key determinant of sensory fate in Drosophila. Perturbing microRNA regulation or genomic location of sens produced distinct noise signatures. Noise was greatly enhanced when both sens alleles were present in homologous loci such that each allele was regulated in trans by the other allele. This led to disordered patterning. In contrast, loss of microRNA repression of sens increased protein abundance but not sensory pattern disorder. This suggests that gene expression stochasticity is a critical feature that must be constrained during development to allow rapid yet accurate cell fate resolution.

Sona Valuchova, Pavlina Mikulkova, Jana Pecinkova, Jana Klimova, Michal Krumnikl, Petr Bainar, Stefan Heckmann, Pavel Tomancak, Karel Riha
Imaging plant germline differentiation within Arabidopsis flowers by light sheet microscopy.
Elife, 9 Art. No. e52546 (2020)
Open Access DOI
In higher plants, germline differentiation occurs during a relatively short period within developing flowers. Understanding of the mechanisms that govern germline differentiation lags behind other plant developmental processes. This is largely because the germline is restricted to relatively few cells buried deep within floral tissues, which makes them difficult to study. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a methodology for live imaging of the germ cell lineage within floral organs of Arabidopsis using light sheet fluorescence microscopy. We have established reporter lines, cultivation conditions, and imaging protocols for high-resolution microscopy of developing flowers continuously for up to several days. We used multiview imagining to reconstruct a three-dimensional model of a flower at subcellular resolution. We demonstrate the power of this approach by capturing male and female meiosis, asymmetric pollen division, movement of meiotic chromosomes, and unusual restitution mitosis in tapetum cells. This method will enable new avenues of research into plant sexual reproduction.

Hiroki R Ueda, Ali Ertürk, Kwanghun Chung, Viviana Gradinaru, Alain Chédotal, Pavel Tomancak, Philipp Keller
Tissue clearing and its applications in neuroscience.
Nat Rev Neurosci, 21(2) 61-79 (2020)
State-of-the-art tissue-clearing methods provide subcellular-level optical access to intact tissues from individual organs and even to some entire mammals. When combined with light-sheet microscopy and automated approaches to image analysis, existing tissue-clearing methods can speed up and may reduce the cost of conventional histology by several orders of magnitude. In addition, tissue-clearing chemistry allows whole-organ antibody labelling, which can be applied even to thick human tissues. By combining the most powerful labelling, clearing, imaging and data-analysis tools, scientists are extracting structural and functional cellular and subcellular information on complex mammalian bodies and large human specimens at an accelerated pace. The rapid generation of terabyte-scale imaging data furthermore creates a high demand for efficient computational approaches that tackle challenges in large-scale data analysis and management. In this Review, we discuss how tissue-clearing methods could provide an unbiased, system-level view of mammalian bodies and human specimens and discuss future opportunities for the use of these methods in human neuroscience.

Robert Haase✳︎, Loic Royer✳︎, Peter Steinbach, Deborah Schmidt, Alexandr Dibrov, Uwe Schmidt, Martin Weigert, Nicola Maghelli, Pavel Tomancak, Florian Jug, Eugene W Myers
CLIJ: GPU-accelerated image processing for everyone.
Nat Methods, 17(1) 5-6 (2020)

Pavel Vopalensky, Maria Antonietta Tosches, Kaia Achim, Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Detlev Arendt
From spiral cleavage to bilateral symmetry: the developmental cell lineage of the annelid brain.
BMC Biol, 17(1) Art. No. 81 (2019)
Open Access DOI
During early development, patterns of cell division-embryonic cleavage-accompany the gradual restriction of blastomeres to specific cell fates. In Spiralia, which include annelids, mollusks, and flatworms, "spiral cleavage" produces a highly stereotypic, spiral-like arrangement of blastomeres and swimming trochophore-type larvae with rotational (spiral) symmetry. However, starting at larval stages, spiralian larvae acquire elements of bilateral symmetry, before they metamorphose into fully bilateral juveniles. How this spiral-to-bilateral transition occurs is not known and is especially puzzling for the early differentiating brain and head sensory organs, which emerge directly from the spiral cleavage pattern. Here we present the developmental cell lineage of the Platynereis larval episphere.

Kate A Rawlinson, François Lapraz, Edward R Ballister, Mark Terasaki, Jessica Rodgers, Richard J McDowell, Johannes Girstmair, Katharine E Criswell, Miklos Boldogkoi, Fraser Simpson, David Goulding, Claire Cormie, Brian Hall, Robert J Lucas, Maximilian J Telford
Extraocular, rod-like photoreceptors in a flatworm express xenopsin photopigment.
Elife, 8 Art. No. e45465 (2019)
Open Access DOI
Animals detect light using opsin photopigments. Xenopsin, a recently classified subtype of opsin, challenges our views on opsin and photoreceptor evolution. Originally thought to belong to the Gαi-coupled ciliary opsins, xenopsins are now understood to have diverged from ciliary opsins in pre-bilaterian times, but little is known about the cells that deploy these proteins, or if they form a photopigment and drive phototransduction. We characterized xenopsin in a flatworm, Maritigrella crozieri, and found it expressed in ciliary cells of eyes in the larva, and in extraocular cells around the brain in the adult. These extraocular cells house hundreds of cilia in an intra-cellular vacuole (phaosome). Functional assays in human cells show Maritigrella xenopsin drives phototransduction primarily by coupling to Gαi. These findings highlight similarities between xenopsin and c-opsin and reveal a novel type of opsin-expressing cell that, like jawed vertebrate rods, encloses the ciliary membrane within their own plasma membrane.

Pavel Tomancak
Evolutionary history of tissue bending.
Science, 366(6463) 300-301 (2019)

Jan Kožusznik, Petr Bainar, Jana Klímová, Michal Krumnikl, Pavel Moravec, Václav Svatoň, Pavel Tomančák
SPIM workflow manager for HPC.
Bioinformatics, 35(19) 3875-3876 (2019)
Open Access DOI
Here we introduce a Fiji plugin utilizing the HPC-as-a-Service concept, significantly mitigating the challenges life scientists face when delegating complex data-intensive processing workflows to HPC clusters. We demonstrate on a common Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy image processing task that execution of a Fiji workflow on a remote supercomputer leads to improved turnaround time despite the data transfer overhead. The plugin allows the end users to conveniently transfer image data to remote HPC resources, manage pipeline jobs and visualize processed results directly from the Fiji graphical user interface.

Martin Maska, Tereza Necasova, David Wiesner, Dmitry V. Sorokin, Igor Peterlik, Vladimir Ulman, David Svoboda
Toward Robust Fully 3D Filopodium Segmentation and Tracking in Time-Lapse Fluorescence Microscopy.
In: 2019 IEEE International Conference on Image Processing : proceedings : September 22-25, 2019, Taipei International Convention Center (TICC), Taipei, Taiwan (2019), Piscataway, N.J., IEEE (2019), 819-823
Development, parameter tuning, and objective benchmarking of bioimage analysis workflows heavily rely on the availability of diverse bioimage datasets accompanied by reference annotations. In this paper, we present a new benchmark dataset, FiloData3D, designed for in-depth performance assessments of fully 3D filopodium segmentation and tracking algorithms that emerged recently in the field. It consists of 180 synthetic, fully annotated, 3D time-lapse sequences of single lung cancer cells, combining different cell shapes, signal-to-noise ratios, and anisotropy ratios, which are the well-known factors that influence the quality of segmentation and tracking results. Using FiloData3D, we show that the number of filopodia and their lengths extracted are significantly underestimated in the case of traditional 2D protocols that prevail in daily practice compared to fully 3D measurements, calling for a procedural change in filopodial analyses of 3D+t bioimage data.

Aleksandar J Krmpot, Stanko N Nikolić, Sho Oasa, Dimitrios Papadopoulos, Marco Vitali, Makoto Oura, Shintaro Mikuni, Per Thyberg, Simone Tisa, Masataka Kinjo, Lennart Nilsson, Lars Terenius, Rudolf Rigler#, Vladana Vukojević#
Functional Fluorescence Microscopy Imaging: Quantitative Scanning-Free Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy for the Characterization of Fast Dynamic Processes in Live Cells.
Anal Chem, 91(17) 11129-11137 (2019)
Functional fluorescence microscopy imaging (fFMI), a time-resolved (21 μs/frame) confocal fluorescence microscopy imaging technique without scanning, is developed for quantitative characterization of fast reaction-transport processes in solution and in live cells. The method is based on massively parallel fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS). Simultaneous excitation of fluorescent molecules in multiple spots in the focal plane is achieved using a diffractive optical element (DOE). Fluorescence from the DOE-generated 1024 illuminated spots is detected in a confocal arrangement by a matching matrix detector comprising 32 × 32 single-photon avalanche photodiodes (SPADs). Software for data acquisition and fast auto- and cross-correlation analysis by parallel signal processing using a graphic processing unit (GPU) allows temporal autocorrelation across all pixels in the image frame in 4 s and cross-correlation between first- and second-order neighbor pixels in 45 s. We present here this quantitative, time-resolved imaging method with single-molecule sensitivity and demonstrate its usefulness for mapping in live cell location-specific differences in the concentration and translational diffusion of molecules in different subcellular compartments. In particular, we show that molecules without a specific biological function, e.g., the enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP), exhibit uniform diffusion. In contrast, molecules that perform specialized biological functions and bind specifically to their molecular targets show location-specific differences in their concentration and diffusion, exemplified here for two transcription factor molecules, the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) before and after nuclear translocation and the Sex combs reduced (Scr) transcription factor in the salivary gland of Drosophila ex vivo.

S Ehrig, B Schamberger, C M Bidan, A West, C Jacobi, K Lam, P Kollmannsberger, A Petersen, Pavel Tomancak, K Kommareddy, F D Fischer, P Fratzl, John W C Dunlop
Surface tension determines tissue shape and growth kinetics.
Sci Adv, 5(9) Art. No. 9394 (2019)
Open Access DOI
The collective self-organization of cells into three-dimensional structures can give rise to emergent physical properties such as fluid behavior. Here, we demonstrate that tissues growing on curved surfaces develop shapes with outer boundaries of constant mean curvature, similar to the energy minimizing forms of liquids wetting a surface. The amount of tissue formed depends on the shape of the substrate, with more tissue being deposited on highly concave surfaces, indicating a mechano-biological feedback mechanism. Inhibiting cell-contractility further revealed that active cellular forces are essential for generating sufficient surface stresses for the liquid-like behavior and growth of the tissue. This suggests that the mechanical signaling between cells and their physical environment, along with the continuous reorganization of cells and matrix is a key principle for the emergence of tissue shape.

Kassiani Skouloudaki#, Ioannis Christodoulou, Dilan Khalili, Vasilios Tsarouhas, Christos Samakovlis, Pavel Tomancak, Elisabeth Knust#, Dimitrios Papadopoulos#
Yorkie controls tube length and apical barrier integrity during airway development.
J Cell Biol, 218(8) 2762-2781 (2019)
Epithelial organ size and shape depend on cell shape changes, cell-matrix communication, and apical membrane growth. The Drosophila melanogaster embryonic tracheal network is an excellent model to study these processes. Here, we show that the transcriptional coactivator of the Hippo pathway, Yorkie (YAP/TAZ in vertebrates), plays distinct roles in the developing Drosophila airways. Yorkie exerts a cytoplasmic function by binding Drosophila Twinstar, the orthologue of the vertebrate actin-severing protein Cofilin, to regulate F-actin levels and apical cell membrane size, which are required for proper tracheal tube elongation. Second, Yorkie controls water tightness of tracheal tubes by transcriptional regulation of the δ-aminolevulinate synthase gene (Alas). We conclude that Yorkie has a dual role in tracheal development to ensure proper tracheal growth and functionality.

Václav Svatoň, Jan Martinovic, Jan Krenek, Thomas Esch, Pavel Tomancak
HPC-as-a-Service via HEAppE Platform.
In: Complex, Intelligent, and Software Intensive Systems : Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Complex, Intelligent, and Software Intensive Systems (CISIS-2019) (2019)(Eds.) Leonard Barolli (Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing ; 993), New York, Springer (2019), 280-293

Mattias Hogvall, Bruno C Vellutini, José M Martín-Durán, Andreas Hejnol, Graham E Budd, Ralf Janssen
Embryonic expression of priapulid Wnt genes.
Dev Genes Evol, 229(4) 125-135 (2019)
Open Access DOI
Posterior elongation of the developing embryo is a common feature of animal development. One group of genes that is involved in posterior elongation is represented by the Wnt genes, secreted glycoprotein ligands that signal to specific receptors on neighbouring cells and thereby establish cell-to-cell communication. In segmented animals such as annelids and arthropods, Wnt signalling is also likely involved in segment border formation and regionalisation of the segments. Priapulids represent unsegmented worms that are distantly related to arthropods. Despite their interesting phylogenetic position and their importance for the understanding of ecdysozoan evolution, priapulids still represent a highly underinvestigated group of animals. Here, we study the embryonic expression patterns of the complete sets of Wnt genes in the priapulids Priapulus caudatus and Halicryptus spinulosus. We find that both priapulids possess a complete set of 12 Wnt genes. At least in Priapulus, most of these genes are expressed in and around the posterior-located blastopore and thus likely play a role in posterior elongation. Together with previous work on the expression of other genetic factors such as caudal and even-skipped, this suggests that posterior elongation in priapulids is under control of the same (or very similar) conserved gene regulatory network as in arthropods.

Pavel Tomancak
Cell communication in the blink of an eye.
Nature, 571(7766) 484-485 (2019)

Dimitrios Papadopoulos#, Pavel Tomancak#
Gene Regulation: Analog to Digital Conversion of Transcription Factor Gradients.
Curr Biol, 29(11) 422-424 (2019)
Transcription factor gradients trigger differential transcriptional responses based on concentration. But how, in some cases, do target genes maintain uniform transcription across portions of the gradient? Lessons from Drosophila demonstrate that organization of transcription into 'hubs' can lead to local increases in transcription factor concentration.

Ivana Viktorinová, Robert Haase, Tobias Pietzsch, Ian Henry, Pavel Tomancak
Analysis of Actomyosin Dynamics at Local Cellular and Tissue Scales Using Time-lapse Movies of Cultured Drosophila Egg Chambers.
J Vis Exp, 148 Art. No. e58587 (2019)
Drosophila immature eggs are called egg chambers, and their structure resembles primitive organs that undergo morphological changes from a round to an ellipsoid shape during development. This developmental process is called oogenesis and is crucial to generating functional mature eggs to secure the next fly generation. For these reasons, egg chambers have served as an ideal and relevant model to understand animal organ development. Several in vitro culturing protocols have been developed, but there are several disadvantages to these protocols. One involves the application of various covers that exert an artificial pressure on the imaged egg chambers in order to immobilize them and to increase the imaged acquisition plane of the circumferential surface of the analyzed egg chambers. Such an approach may negatively influence the behavior of the thin actomyosin machinery that generates the power to rotate egg chambers around their longer axis. Thus, to overcome this limitation, we culture Drosophila egg chambers freely in the media in order to reliably analyze actomyosin machinery along the circumference of egg chambers. In the first part of the protocol, we provide a manual detailing how to analyze the actomyosin machinery in a limited acquisition plane at the local cellular scale (up to 15 cells). In the second part of the protocol, we provide users with a new Fiji-based plugin that allows the simple extraction of a defined thin layer of the egg chambers' circumferential surface. The following protocol then describes how to analyze actomyosin signals at the tissue scale (>50 cells). Finally, we pinpoint the limitations of these approaches at both the local cellular and tissue scales and discuss its potential future development and possible applications.

Stefan Münster, Akanksha Jain, Alexander Mietke, Anastasios Pavlopoulos, Stephan W. Grill#, Pavel Tomancak#
Attachment of the blastoderm to the vitelline envelope affects gastrulation of insects.
Nature, 568(7752) 395-399 (2019)
During gastrulation, physical forces reshape the simple embryonic tissue to form the complex body plans of multicellular organisms1. These forces often cause large-scale asymmetric movements of the embryonic tissue2,3. In many embryos, the gastrulating tissue is surrounded by a rigid protective shell4. Although it is well-recognized that gastrulation movements depend on forces that are generated by tissue-intrinsic contractility5,6, it is not known whether interactions between the tissue and the protective shell provide additional forces that affect gastrulation. Here we show that a particular part of the blastoderm tissue of the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) tightly adheres in a temporally coordinated manner to the vitelline envelope that surrounds the embryo. This attachment generates an additional force that counteracts tissue-intrinsic contractile forces to create asymmetric tissue movements. This localized attachment depends on an αPS2 integrin (inflated), and the knockdown of this integrin leads to a gastrulation phenotype that is consistent with complete loss of attachment. Furthermore, analysis of another integrin (the αPS3 integrin, scab) in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) suggests that gastrulation in this organism also relies on adhesion between the blastoderm and the vitelline envelope. Our findings reveal a conserved mechanism through which the spatiotemporal pattern of tissue adhesion to the vitelline envelope provides controllable, counteracting forces that shape gastrulation movements in insects.

Dimitrios Papadopoulos#, Kassiani Skouloudaki, Ylva Engström, Lars Terenius, Rudolf Rigler, Christoph Zechner, Vladana Vukojević, Pavel Tomancak#
Control of Hox transcription factor concentration and cell-to-cell variability by an auto-regulatory switch.
Development, 146(12) Art. No. dev168179 (2019)
Open Access DOI
The variability in transcription factor concentration among cells is an important developmental determinant, yet how variability is controlled remains poorly understood. Studies of variability have focused predominantly on monitoring mRNA production noise. Little information exists about transcription factor protein variability, as this requires the use of quantitative methods with single-molecule sensitivity. Using Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), we have characterized the concentration and variability of 14 endogenously tagged TFs in live Drosophila imaginal discs. For the Hox TF Antennapedia, we investigated whether protein variability results from random stochastic events or is developmentally regulated. We found that Antennapedia transitioned from low concentration/high variability early, to high concentration/low variability later, in development. FCS and temporally resolved genetic studies uncovered that Antennapedia itself is necessary and sufficient to drive a developmental regulatory switch from auto-activation to auto-repression, thereby reducing variability. This switch is controlled by progressive changes in relative concentrations of preferentially activating and repressing Antennapedia isoforms, which bind chromatin with different affinities. Mathematical modeling demonstrated that the experimentally supported auto-regulatory circuit can explain the increase of Antennapedia concentration and suppression of variability over time.

Kassiani Skouloudaki✳︎#, Dimitrios Papadopoulos✳︎, Pavel Tomancak, Elisabeth Knust#
The apical protein Apnoia interacts with Crumbs to regulate tracheal growth and inflation.
PLoS Genet, 15(1) Art. No. e1007852 (2019)
Open Access DOI
Most organs of multicellular organisms are built from epithelial tubes. To exert their functions, tubes rely on apico-basal polarity, on junctions, which form a barrier to separate the inside from the outside, and on a proper lumen, required for gas or liquid transport. Here we identify apnoia (apn), a novel Drosophila gene required for tracheal tube elongation and lumen stability at larval stages. Larvae lacking Apn show abnormal tracheal inflation and twisted airway tubes, but no obvious defects in early steps of tracheal maturation. apn encodes a transmembrane protein, primarily expressed in the tracheae, which exerts its function by controlling the localization of Crumbs (Crb), an evolutionarily conserved apical determinant. Apn physically interacts with Crb to control its localization and maintenance at the apical membrane of developing airways. In apn mutant tracheal cells, Crb fails to localize apically and is trapped in retromer-positive vesicles. Consistent with the role of Crb in apical membrane growth, RNAi-mediated knockdown of Crb results in decreased apical surface growth of tracheal cells and impaired axial elongation of the dorsal trunk. We conclude that Apn is a novel regulator of tracheal tube expansion in larval tracheae, the function of which is mediated by Crb.

Ulrik Günther, Tobias Pietzsch, Aryaman Gupta, Kyle Harrington, Pavel Tomancak, Stefan Gumhold, Ivo F. Sbalzarini
scenery: Flexible Virtual Reality Visualization on the Java VM.
In: 2019 IEEE Visualization Conference (VIS) (2019), Piscataway, N.J., IEEE (2019), 166-170

Johannes Girstmair, Maximilian J Telford
Reinvestigating the early embryogenesis in the flatworm Maritigrella crozieri highlights the unique spiral cleavage program found in polyclad flatworms.
Evodevo, 10 Art. No. 12 (2019)
Open Access DOI
Spiral cleavage is a conserved, early developmental mode found in several phyla of Lophotrochozoans resulting in highly diverse adult body plans. While the cleavage pattern has clearly been broadly conserved, it has also undergone many modifications in various taxa. The precise mechanisms of how different adaptations have altered the ancestral spiral cleavage pattern are an important ongoing evolutionary question, and adequately answering this question requires obtaining a broad developmental knowledge of different spirally cleaving taxa. In flatworms (Platyhelminthes), the spiral cleavage program has been lost or severely modified in most taxa. Polyclad flatworms, however, have retained the pattern up to the 32-cell stage. Here we study early embryogenesis of the cotylean polyclad flatworm Maritigrella crozieri to investigate how closely this species follows the canonical spiral cleavage pattern and to discover any potential deviations from it.

Sebastian Dunst#, Pavel Tomancak#
Imaging Flies by Fluorescence Microscopy: Principles, Technologies, and Applications.
Genetics, 211(1) 15-34 (2019)
Open Access DOI
The development of fluorescent labels and powerful imaging technologies in the last two decades has revolutionized the field of fluorescence microscopy, which is now widely used in diverse scientific fields from biology to biomedical and materials science. Fluorescence microscopy has also become a standard technique in research laboratories working on Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Here, we review the principles of fluorescence microscopy technologies from wide-field to Super-resolution microscopy and its application in the Drosophila research field.

Anna Castells-Nobau, Ilse Eidhof, Michaela Fenckova, Dova B Brenman-Suttner, Jolanda M Scheffer-de Gooyert, Sheren Christine, Rosa L Schellevis, Kiran van der Laan, Christine Quentin, Lisa van Ninhuijs, Falko Hofmann, Radoslaw K Ejsmont, Simon E Fisher, Jamie M Kramer, Stephan J Sigrist, Anne F Simon, Annette Schenck
Conserved regulation of neurodevelopmental processes and behavior by FoxP in Drosophila.
PLoS ONE, 14(2) Art. No. e211652 (2019)
Open Access DOI
FOXP proteins form a subfamily of evolutionarily conserved transcription factors involved in the development and functioning of several tissues, including the central nervous system. In humans, mutations in FOXP1 and FOXP2 have been implicated in cognitive deficits including intellectual disability and speech disorders. Drosophila exhibits a single ortholog, called FoxP, but due to a lack of characterized mutants, our understanding of the gene remains poor. Here we show that the dimerization property required for mammalian FOXP function is conserved in Drosophila. In flies, FoxP is enriched in the adult brain, showing strong expression in ~1000 neurons of cholinergic, glutamatergic and GABAergic nature. We generate Drosophila loss-of-function mutants and UAS-FoxP transgenic lines for ectopic expression, and use them to characterize FoxP function in the nervous system. At the cellular level, we demonstrate that Drosophila FoxP is required in larvae for synaptic morphogenesis at axonal terminals of the neuromuscular junction and for dendrite development of dorsal multidendritic sensory neurons. In the developing brain, we find that FoxP plays important roles in α-lobe mushroom body formation. Finally, at a behavioral level, we show that Drosophila FoxP is important for locomotion, habituation learning and social space behavior of adult flies. Our work shows that Drosophila FoxP is important for regulating several neurodevelopmental processes and behaviors that are related to human disease or vertebrate disease model phenotypes. This suggests a high degree of functional conservation with vertebrate FOXP orthologues and established flies as a model system for understanding FOXP related pathologies.

Mette Handberg-Thorsager, V Ulman, Pavel Tomançak, Detlev Arendt, M Schubert
A Behavioral Assay to Study Effects of Retinoid Pharmacology on Nervous System Development in a Marine Annelid.
Methods Mol Biol, 2019 193-207 (2019)
Autonomous animal locomotion, such as swimming, is modulated by neuronal networks acting on cilia or muscles. Understanding how these networks are formed and coordinated is a complex scientific problem, which requires various technical approaches. Among others, behavioral studies of developing animals treated with exogenous substances have proven to be a successful approach for studying the functions of neuronal networks. One such substance crucial for the proper development of the nervous system is the vitamin A-derived morphogen retinoic acid (RA). In the larva of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii , for example, RA is involved in the specification and differentiation of individual neurons and responsible for orchestrating the swimming behavior of the developing larva. Here, we report a workflow to analyze the effects of RA on the locomotion of the P. dumerilii larva. We provide a protocol for both the treatment with RA and the recording of larval swimming behavior. Additionally, we present a pipeline for the analysis of the obtained data in terms of swimming speed and movement trajectory. This chapter thus summarizes the methodology for analyzing the effects of a specific drug treatment on larval swimming behavior. We expect this approach to be readily adaptable to a wide variety of pharmacological compounds and aquatic species.

Michal Krumnikl, Petr Bainar, Jana Klímová, Jan Kožusznik, Pavel Moravec, Václav Svatoň, Pavel Tomančák
SciJava Interface for Parallel Execution in the ImageJ Ecosystem.
In: Computer Information Systems and Industrial Management (2018)(Eds.) Władysław Homenda Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Cham, Springer International Publishing (2018), 288-299

Martin Weigert, Uwe Schmidt, Tobias Boothe, Andreas Müller, Alexandr Dibrov, Akanksha Jain, Benjamin Wilhelm, Deborah Schmidt, Coleman Broaddus, Sian Culley, Mauricio Rocha-Martins, Fabián Segovia-Miranda, Caren Norden, Ricardo Henriques, Marino Zerial, Michele Solimena, Jochen Rink, Pavel Tomancak, Loic Royer, Florian Jug, Eugene W Myers
Content-aware image restoration: pushing the limits of fluorescence microscopy.
Nat Methods, 15(12) 1090-1097 (2018)
Fluorescence microscopy is a key driver of discoveries in the life sciences, with observable phenomena being limited by the optics of the microscope, the chemistry of the fluorophores, and the maximum photon exposure tolerated by the sample. These limits necessitate trade-offs between imaging speed, spatial resolution, light exposure, and imaging depth. In this work we show how content-aware image restoration based on deep learning extends the range of biological phenomena observable by microscopy. We demonstrate on eight concrete examples how microscopy images can be restored even if 60-fold fewer photons are used during acquisition, how near isotropic resolution can be achieved with up to tenfold under-sampling along the axial direction, and how tubular and granular structures smaller than the diffraction limit can be resolved at 20-times-higher frame rates compared to state-of-the-art methods. All developed image restoration methods are freely available as open source software in Python, FIJI, and KNIME.

Miroslav Ovečka, Daniel von Wangenheim, Pavel Tomančák, Olga Šamajová, George Komis, Jozef Šamaj
Multiscale imaging of plant development by light-sheet fluorescence microscopy.
Nat Plants, 4(9) 639-650 (2018)
Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) methods collectively represent the major breakthrough in developmental bio-imaging of living multicellular organisms. They are becoming a mainstream approach through the development of both commercial and custom-made LSFM platforms that are adjusted to diverse biological applications. Based on high-speed acquisition rates under conditions of low light exposure and minimal photo-damage of the biological sample, these methods provide ideal means for long-term and in-depth data acquisition during organ imaging at single-cell resolution. The introduction of LSFM methods into biology extended our understanding of pattern formation and developmental progress of multicellular organisms from embryogenesis to adult body. Moreover, LSFM imaging allowed the dynamic visualization of biological processes under almost natural conditions. Here, we review the most important, recent biological applications of LSFM methods in developmental studies of established and emerging plant model species, together with up-to-date methods of data editing and evaluation for modelling of complex biological processes. Recent applications in animal models push LSFM into the forefront of current bio-imaging approaches. Since LSFM is now the single most effective method for fast imaging of multicellular organisms, allowing quantitative analyses of their long-term development, its broader use in plant developmental biology will likely bring new insights.

Igor Peterlik, David Svoboda, Vladimir Ulman, Dmitry V. Sorokin, Martin Maska
Model-Based Generation of Synthetic 3D Time-Lapse Sequences of Multiple Mutually Interacting Motile Cells with Filopodia.
In: Simulation and synthesis in medical imaging ; third international workshop, SASHIMI 2018, held in conjunction with MICCAI 2018, Granada, Spain, September 16, 2018 : proceedings (2018)(Eds.) Ali Gooya (Lecture notes in computer science ;11037), Cham, Springer International Publishing (2018), 71-79

Shovamayee Maharana, Jie Wang, Dimitrios Papadopoulos, Doris Richter, Andrei I. Pozniakovsky, Ina Poser, Marc Bickle, Sandra Rizk, Jordina Guillén-Boixet, Titus Franzmann, Marcus Jahnel, Lara Marrone, Young-Tae Chang, Jared Sterneckert, Pavel Tomancak, Anthony Hyman#, Simon Alberti#
RNA buffers the phase separation behavior of prion-like RNA binding proteins.
Science, 360(6391) 918-921 (2018)
Prion-like RNA binding proteins (RBPs) such as TDP43 and FUS are largely soluble in the nucleus but form solid pathological aggregates when mislocalized to the cytoplasm. What keeps these proteins soluble in the nucleus and promotes aggregation in the cytoplasm is still unknown. We report here that RNA critically regulates the phase behavior of prion-like RBPs. Low RNA/protein ratios promote phase separation into liquid droplets, whereas high ratios prevent droplet formation in vitro. Reduction of nuclear RNA levels or genetic ablation of RNA binding causes excessive phase separation and the formation of cytotoxic solid-like assemblies in cells. We propose that the nucleus is a buffered system in which high RNA concentrations keep RBPs soluble. Changes in RNA levels or RNA binding abilities of RBPs cause aberrant phase transitions.

Carsten Wolff#, Jean-Yves Tinevez, Tobias Pietzsch, Evangelia Stamataki, Benjamin Harich, Léo Guignard, Stephan Preibisch, Spencer Shorte, Patrick Keller, Pavel Tomancak#, Anastasios Pavlopoulos#
Multi-view light-sheet imaging and tracking with the MaMuT software reveals the cell lineage of a direct developing arthropod limb.
Elife, 7 Art. No. e34410 (2018)
Open Access DOI
During development, coordinated cell behaviors orchestrate tissue and organ morphogenesis. Detailed descriptions of cell lineages and behaviors provide a powerful framework to elucidate the mechanisms of morphogenesis. To study the cellular basis of limb development, we imaged transgenic fluorescently-labeled embryos from the crustaceanParhyale hawaiensiswith multi-view light-sheet microscopy at high spatiotemporal resolution over several days of embryogenesis. The cell lineage of outgrowing thoracic limbs was reconstructed at single-cell resolution with new software called Massive Multi-view Tracker (MaMuT).In silicoclonal analyses suggested that the early limb primordium becomes subdivided into anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral compartments whose boundaries intersect at the distal tip of the growing limb. Limb-bud formation is associated with spatial modulation of cell proliferation, while limb elongation is also driven by preferential orientation of cell divisions along the proximal-distal growth axis. Cellular reconstructions were predictive of the expression patterns of limb development genes including the BMP morphogen Decapentaplegic.

J P Joos, A R Saadatmand, C Schnabel, Ivana Viktorinová, Thomas Brand, M Kramer, S Nattel, D Dobrev, Pavel Tomancak, J Backs, P Kleinbongard, G Heusch, K Lorenz, E Koch, S Weber, A El-Armouche
Ectopic expression of S28A-mutated Histone H3 modulates longevity, stress resistance and cardiac function in Drosophila.
Sci Rep, 8(1) Art. No. 2940 (2018)
Open Access DOI
Histone H3 serine 28 (H3S28) phosphorylation and de-repression of polycomb repressive complex (PRC)-mediated gene regulation is linked to stress conditions in mitotic and post-mitotic cells. To better understand the role of H3S28 phosphorylation in vivo, we studied a Drosophila strain with ectopic expression of constitutively-activated H3S28A, which prevents PRC2 binding at H3S28, thus mimicking H3S28 phosphorylation. H3S28A mutants showed prolonged life span and improved resistance against starvation and paraquat-induced oxidative stress. Morphological and functional analysis of heart tubes revealed smaller luminal areas and thicker walls accompanied by moderately improved cardiac function after acute stress induction. Whole-exome deep gene-sequencing from isolated heart tubes revealed phenotype-corresponding changes in longevity-promoting and myotropic genes. We also found changes in genes controlling mitochondrial biogenesis and respiration. Analysis of mitochondrial respiration from whole flies revealed improved efficacy of ATP production with reduced electron transport-chain activity. Finally, we analyzed posttranslational modification of H3S28 in an experimental heart failure model and observed increased H3S28 phosphorylation levels in HF hearts. Our data establish a critical role of H3S28 phosphorylation in vivo for life span, stress resistance, cardiac and mitochondrial function in Drosophila. These findings may pave the way for H3S28 phosphorylation as a putative target to treat stress-related disorders such as heart failure.

Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Juliana Gutierrez-Mazariegos, Stefan T Arold, Eswar Kumar Nadendla, Paola Y Bertucci, Pierre Germain, Pavel Tomançak, Keely Pierzchalski, Jace W Jones, Ricard Albalat, Maureen A Kane, William Bourguet, Vincent Laudet, Detlev Arendt, Michael Schubert
The ancestral retinoic acid receptor was a low-affinity sensor triggering neuronal differentiation.
Sci Adv, 4(2) Art. No. eaao1261 (2018)
Open Access DOI
Retinoic acid (RA) is an important intercellular signaling molecule in vertebrate development, with a well-established role in the regulation ofhoxgenes during hindbrain patterning and in neurogenesis. However, the evolutionary origin of the RA signaling pathway remains elusive. To elucidate the evolution of the RA signaling system, we characterized RA metabolism and signaling in the marine annelidPlatynereis dumerilii, a powerful model for evolution, development, and neurobiology. Binding assays and crystal structure analyses show that the annelid retinoic acid receptor (RAR) binds RA and activates transcription just as vertebrate RARs, yet with a different ligand-binding pocket and lower binding affinity, suggesting a permissive rather than instructive role of RA signaling. RAR knockdown and RA treatment of swimming annelid larvae further reveal that the RA signal is locally received in the medial neuroectoderm, where it controls neurogenesis and axon outgrowth, whereas the spatial colinearhoxgene expression in the neuroectoderm remains unaffected. These findings suggest that one early role of the new RAR in bilaterian evolution was to control the spatially restricted onset of motor and interneuron differentiation in the developing ventral nerve cord and to indicate that the regulation ofhox-controlled anterior-posterior patterning arose only at the base of the chordates, concomitant with a high-affinity RAR needed for the interpretation of a complex RA gradient.

B Duygu Özpolat, Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Michel Vervoort, Guillaume Balavoine
Cell lineage and cell cycling analyses of the 4d micromere using live imaging in the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii.
Elife, 6 Art. No. e30463 (2017)
Open Access DOI
Cell lineage, cell cycle, and cell fate are tightly associated in developmental processes, but in vivo studies at single-cell resolution showing the intricacies of these associations are rare due to technical limitations. In this study on the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii, we investigated the lineage of the 4d micromere, using high-resolution long-term live imaging complemented with a live-cell cycle reporter. 4d is the origin of mesodermal lineages and the germline in many spiralians. We traced lineages at single-cell resolution within 4d and demonstrate that embryonic segmental mesoderm forms via teloblastic divisions, as in clitellate annelids. We also identified the precise cellular origins of the larval mesodermal posterior growth zone. We found that differentially-fated progeny of 4d (germline, segmental mesoderm, growth zone) display significantly different cell cycling. This work has evolutionary implications, sets up the foundation for functional studies in annelid stem cells, and presents newly established techniques for live imaging marine embryos.

Sandra Richter, Ulrike Schulze, Pavel Tomançak, Andrew C. Oates
Small molecule screen in embryonic zebrafish using modular variations to target segmentation.
Nat Commun, 8(1) Art. No. 1901 (2017)
Open Access DOI
Small molecule in vivo phenotypic screening is used to identify drugs or biological activities by directly assessing effects in intact organisms. However, current screening designs may not exploit the full potential of chemical libraries due to false negatives. Here, we demonstrate a modular small molecule screen in embryonic zebrafish that varies concentration, genotype and timing to target segmentation disorders, birth defects that affect the spinal column. By testing each small molecule in multiple interrelated ways, this screen recovers compounds that a standard screening design would have missed, increasing the hit frequency from the chemical library three-fold. We identify molecular pathways and segmentation phenotypes, which we share in an open-access annotated database. These hits provide insight into human vertebral segmentation disorders and myopathies. This modular screening strategy is applicable to other developmental questions and disease models, highlighting the power of relatively small chemical libraries to accelerate gene discovery and disease study.

Vladimir Ulman, Martin Maška, Klas E. G. Magnusson, Olaf Ronneberger, Carsten Haubold, Nathalie Harder, Pavel Matula, Pavel Matula, David Svoboda, Miroslav Radojevic, Ihor Smal, Karl Rohr, Joakim Jaldén, Helen M. Blau, Oleh Dzyubachyk, Boudewijn Lelieveldt, Pengdong Xiao, Yuexiang Li, Siu-Yeung Cho, Alexandre C Dufour, Jean-Christophe Olivo-Marin, Constantino C Reyes-Aldasoro, Jose A Solis-Lemus, Robert Bensch, Thomas Brox, Johannes Stegmaier, Ralf Mikut, Steffen Wolf, Fred A Hamprecht, Tiago Esteves, Pedro Quelhas, Ömer Demirel, Lars Malmström, Florian Jug, Pavel Tomancak, Erik Meijering, Arrate Muñoz-Barrutia, Michal Kozubek, Carlos Ortiz-de-Solorzano
An objective comparison of cell-tracking algorithms.
Nat Methods, 14(12) 1141-1152 (2017)
We present a combined report on the results of three editions of the Cell Tracking Challenge, an ongoing initiative aimed at promoting the development and objective evaluation of cell segmentation and tracking algorithms. With 21 participating algorithms and a data repository consisting of 13 data sets from various microscopy modalities, the challenge displays today's state-of-the-art methodology in the field. We analyzed the challenge results using performance measures for segmentation and tracking that rank all participating methods. We also analyzed the performance of all of the algorithms in terms of biological measures and practical usability. Although some methods scored high in all technical aspects, none obtained fully correct solutions. We found that methods that either take prior information into account using learning strategies or analyze cells in a global spatiotemporal video context performed better than other methods under the segmentation and tracking scenarios included in the challenge.

Ivana Viktorinová, Ian Henry, Pavel Tomancak
Epithelial rotation is preceded by planar symmetry breaking of actomyosin and protects epithelial tissue from cell deformations.
PLoS Genet, 13(11) Art. No. 1007107 (2017)
Open Access DOI
Symmetry breaking is involved in many developmental processes that form bodies and organs. One of them is the epithelial rotation of developing tubular and acinar organs. However, how epithelial cells move, how they break symmetry to define their common direction, and what function rotational epithelial motions have remains elusive. Here, we identify a dynamic actomyosin network that breaks symmetry at the basal surface of the Drosophila follicle epithelium of acinar-like primitive organs, called egg chambers, and may represent a candidate force-generation mechanism that underlies the unidirectional motion of this epithelial tissue. We provide evidence that the atypical cadherin Fat2, a key planar cell polarity regulator in Drosophila oogenesis, directs and orchestrates transmission of the intracellular actomyosin asymmetry cue onto a tissue plane in order to break planar actomyosin symmetry, facilitate epithelial rotation in the opposite direction, and direct the elongation of follicle cells. In contrast, loss of this rotational motion results in anisotropic non-muscle Myosin II pulses that are disorganized in plane and causes cell deformations in the epithelial tissue of Drosophila eggs. Our work demonstrates that atypical cadherins play an important role in the control of symmetry breaking of cellular mechanics in order to facilitate tissue motion and model epithelial tissue. We propose that their functions may be evolutionarily conserved in tubular/acinar vertebrate organs.

P Philippe Laissue, Rana A Alghamdi, Pavel Tomancak, Emmanuel G. Reynaud, Hari Shroff
Assessing phototoxicity in live fluorescence imaging.
Nat Methods, 14(7) 657-661 (2017)
Are the answers to biological questions obtained via live fluorescence microscopy substantially affected by phototoxicity? Although a single set of standards for assessing phototoxicity cannot exist owing to the breadth of samples and experimental questions associated with biological imaging, we need quantitative, practical assessments and reporting standards to ensure that imaging has a minimal impact on observed biological processes and sample health. Here we discuss the problem of phototoxicity in biology and suggest guidelines to improve its reporting and assessment.

John J Reynolds, Louise S Bicknell, Paula Carroll, Martin R Higgs, Ranad Shaheen, Jennie E Murray, Dimitrios Papadopoulos, Andrea Leitch, Olga Murina, Žygimantė Tarnauskaitė, Sarah R Wessel, Anastasia Zlatanou, Audrey Vernet, Alex von Kriegsheim, Rachel M A Mottram, Clare V Logan, Hannah Bye, Yun Li, Alexander Brean, Sateesh Maddirevula, Rachel C Challis, Kassiani Skouloudaki, Agaadir Almoisheer, Hessa S Alsaif, Ariella Amar, Natalie J Prescott, Michael B Bober, Angela Duker, Eissa Faqeih, Mohammed Zain Seidahmed, Saeed Al Tala, Abdulrahman Alswaid, Saleem Ahmed, Jumana Yousuf Al-Aama, Janine Altmüller, Mohammed Al Balwi, Angela F Brady, Luciana Chessa, Helen Cox, Rita Fischetto, Raoul Heller, Bertram D Henderson, Emma Hobson, Peter Nürnberg, E Ferda Percin, Angela Peron, Luigina Spaccini, Alan J Quigley, Seema Thakur, Carol A Wise, Grace Yoon, Maha Alnemer, Pavel Tomancak, Gökhan Yigit, A Malcolm R Taylor, Martin A M Reijns, Michael A Simpson, David Cortez, Fowzan Sami Alkuraya, Christopher G Mathew, Andrew P Jackson, Grant S Stewart
Mutations in DONSON disrupt replication fork stability and cause microcephalic dwarfism.
Nat Genet, 49(4) 537-549 (2017)
To ensure efficient genome duplication, cells have evolved numerous factors that promote unperturbed DNA replication and protect, repair and restart damaged forks. Here we identify downstream neighbor of SON (DONSON) as a novel fork protection factor and report biallelic DONSON mutations in 29 individuals with microcephalic dwarfism. We demonstrate that DONSON is a replisome component that stabilizes forks during genome replication. Loss of DONSON leads to severe replication-associated DNA damage arising from nucleolytic cleavage of stalled replication forks. Furthermore, ATM- and Rad3-related (ATR)-dependent signaling in response to replication stress is impaired in DONSON-deficient cells, resulting in decreased checkpoint activity and the potentiation of chromosomal instability. Hypomorphic mutations in DONSON substantially reduce DONSON protein levels and impair fork stability in cells from patients, consistent with defective DNA replication underlying the disease phenotype. In summary, we have identified mutations in DONSON as a common cause of microcephalic dwarfism and established DONSON as a critical replication fork protein required for mammalian DNA replication and genome stability.

Pavel Tomancak
Universal Rules of Regulation
Cell, 165(5) 1035-1036 (2016)

Jaroslav Icha✳︎#, Christopher Schmied✳︎, Jaydeep Sidhaye, Pavel Tomancák, Stephan Preibisch, Caren Norden#
Using Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy to Image Zebrafish Eye Development
J Vis Exp, (110) Art. No. e53966 (2016)
Open Access PDF DOI
Light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) is gaining more and more popularity as a method to image embryonic development. The main advantages of LSFM compared to confocal systems are its low phototoxicity, gentle mounting strategies, fast acquisition with high signal to noise ratio and the possibility of imaging samples from various angles (views) for long periods of time. Imaging from multiple views unleashes the full potential of LSFM, but at the same time it can create terabyte-sized datasets. Processing such datasets is the biggest challenge of using LSFM. In this protocol we outline some solutions to this problem. Until recently, LSFM was mostly performed in laboratories that had the expertise to build and operate their own light sheet microscopes. However, in the last three years several commercial implementations of LSFM became available, which are multipurpose and easy to use for any developmental biologist. This article is primarily directed to those researchers, who are not LSFM technology developers, but want to employ LSFM as a tool to answer specific developmental biology questions. Here, we use imaging of zebrafish eye development as an example to introduce the reader to LSFM technology and we demonstrate applications of LSFM across multiple spatial and temporal scales. This article describes a complete experimental protocol starting with the mounting of zebrafish embryos for LSFM. We then outline the options for imaging using the commercially available light sheet microscope. Importantly, we also explain a pipeline for subsequent registration and fusion of multiview datasets using an open source solution implemented as a Fiji plugin. While this protocol focuses on imaging the developing zebrafish eye and processing data from a particular imaging setup, most of the insights and troubleshooting suggestions presented here are of general use and the protocol can be adapted to a variety of light sheet microscopy experiments.

Christopher Schmied, Peter Steinbach, Tobias Pietzsch, Stephan Preibisch, Pavel Tomancak
An automated workflow for parallel processing of large multiview SPIM recordings.
Bioinformatics, 32(7) 1112-1114 (2016)
Open Access PDF DOI
Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM) allows to image developing organisms in 3D at unprecedented temporal resolution over long periods of time. The resulting massive amounts of raw image data requires extensive processing interactively via dedicated graphical user interface (GUI) applications. The consecutive processing steps can be easily automated and the individual time points can be processed independently, which lends itself to trivial parallelization on a high performance computing (HPC) cluster. Here we introduce an automated workflow for processing large multiview, multi-channel, multi-illumination time-lapse SPIM data on a single workstation or in parallel on a HPC cluster. The pipeline relies on snakemake to resolve dependencies among consecutive processing steps and can be easily adapted to any cluster environment for processing SPIM data in a fraction of the time required to collect it.

Kenneth Börner, Dhawal Jain, Paula Vazquez-Pianzola, Sandra Vengadasalam, Natascha Steffen, Dmitry V Fyodorov, Pavel Tomancak, Alexander Konev, Beat Suter, Peter B Becker
A role for tuned levels of nucleosome remodeler subunit ACF1 during Drosophila oogenesis.
Dev Biol, 411(2) 217-230 (2016)
The Chromatin Accessibility Complex (CHRAC) consists of the ATPase ISWI, the large ACF1 subunit and a pair of small histone-like proteins, CHRAC-14/16. CHRAC is a prototypical nucleosome sliding factor that mobilizes nucleosomes to improve the regularity and integrity of the chromatin fiber. This may facilitate the formation of repressive chromatin. Expression of the signature subunit ACF1 is restricted during embryonic development, but remains high in primordial germ cells. Therefore, we explored roles for ACF1 during Drosophila oogenesis. ACF1 is expressed in somatic and germline cells, with notable enrichment in germline stem cells and oocytes. The asymmetrical localization of ACF1 to these cells depends on the transport of the Acf1 mRNA by the Bicaudal-D/Egalitarian complex. Loss of ACF1 function in the novel Acf1(7) allele leads to defective egg chambers and their elimination through apoptosis. In addition, we find a variety of unusual 16-cell cyst packaging phenotypes in the previously known Acf1(1) allele, with a striking prevalence of egg chambers with two functional oocytes at opposite poles. Surprisingly, we found that the Acf1(1) deletion - despite disruption of the Acf1 reading frame - expresses low levels of a PHD-bromodomain module from the C-terminus of ACF1 that becomes enriched in oocytes. Expression of this module from the Acf1 genomic locus leads to packaging defects in the absence of functional ACF1, suggesting competitive interactions with unknown target molecules. Remarkably, a two-fold overexpression of CHRAC (ACF1 and CHRAC-16) leads to increased apoptosis and packaging defects. Evidently, finely tuned CHRAC levels are required for proper oogenesis.

Mihail Sarov#, Christiane Barz, Helena Jambor, Marco Y Hein, Christopher Schmied, Dana Suchold, Bettina Stender, Stephan Janosch, Vinay Vikas Kj, R T Krishnan, Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy, Irene R S Ferreira, Radoslaw K Ejsmont, Katja Finkl, Susanne Hasse, Philipp Kämpfer, Nicole Plewka, Elisabeth Vinis, Siegfried Schloissnig, Elisabeth Knust, Volker Hartenstein, Matthias Mann, Mani Ramaswami, K VijayRaghavan, Pavel Tomancak#, Frank Schnorrer#
A genome-wide resource for the analysis of protein localisation in Drosophila.
Elife, 5 Art. No. e12068 (2016)
Open Access PDF DOI
The Drosophila genome contains >13,000 protein coding genes, the majority of which remain poorly investigated. Important reasons include the lack of antibodies or reporter constructs to visualise these proteins. Here we present a genome-wide fosmid library of 10,000 GFP-tagged clones, comprising tagged genes and most of their regulatory information. For 880 tagged proteins we created transgenic lines and for a total of 207 lines we assessed protein expression and localisation in ovaries, embryos, pupae or adults by stainings and live imaging approaches. Importantly, we visualised many proteins at endogenous expression levels and found a large fraction of them localising to subcellular compartments. By applying genetic complementation tests we estimate that about two-thirds of the tagged proteins are functional. Moreover, these tagged proteins enable interaction proteomics from developing pupae and adult flies. Taken together, this resource will boost systematic analysis of protein expression and localisation in various cellular and developmental contexts.

Eric Lewitus#, Iva Kelava, Alex T. Kalinka, Pavel Tomancak, Wieland B. Huttner#
Comment on "Cortical folding scales universally with surface area and thickness, not number of neurons".
Science, 351(6275) 825-825 (2016)
Mota and Herculano-Houzel (Reports, 3 July 2015, p. 74) assign power functions to neuroanatomical data and present a model to account for evolutionary patterns of cortical folding in the mammalian brain. We detail how the model assumptions are in conflict with experimental and observational work and show that the model itself does not accurately fit the data.

Christopher Schmied
A live imaging paradigm for studying Drosophila development and evolution
Ph.D. Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2016)

Christopher Schmied, Pavel Tomancak
Sample Preparation and Mounting of Drosophila Embryos for Multiview Light Sheet Microscopy.
Methods Mol Biol, 1478 189-202 (2016)
Light sheet fluorescent microscopy (LSFM), and in particular its most widespread flavor Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM), promises to provide unprecedented insights into developmental dynamics of entire living systems. By combining minimal photo-damage with high imaging speed and sample mounting tailored toward the needs of the specimen, it enables in toto imaging of embryogenesis with high spatial and temporal resolution. Drosophila embryos are particularly well suited for SPIM imaging because the volume of the embryo does not change from the single cell embryo to the hatching larva. SPIM microscopes can therefore image Drosophila embryos embedded in rigid media, such as agarose, from multiple angles every few minutes from the blastoderm stage until hatching. Here, we describe sample mounting strategies to achieve such a recording. We also provide detailed protocols to realize multiview, long-term, time-lapse recording of Drosophila embryos expressing fluorescent markers on the commercially available Zeiss Lightsheet Z.1 microscope and the OpenSPIM.

Helena Jambor, Pavel Mejstrik, Pavel Tomancak
Rapid Ovary Mass-Isolation (ROMi) to Obtain Large Quantities of Drosophila Egg Chambers for Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization.
Methods Mol Biol, 1478 253-262 (2016)
Isolation of large quantities of tissue from organisms is essential for many techniques such as genome-wide screens and biochemistry. However, obtaining large quantities of tissues or cells is often the rate-limiting step when working in vivo. Here, we present a rapid method that allows the isolation of intact, single egg chambers at various developmental stages from ovaries of adult female Drosophila flies. The isolated egg chambers are amenable for a variety of procedures such as fluorescent in situ hybridization, RNA isolation, extract preparation, or immunostaining. Isolation of egg chambers from adult flies can be completed in 5 min and results, depending on the input amount of flies, in several milliliters of material. The isolated egg chambers are then further processed depending on the exact requirements of the subsequent application. We describe high-throughput in situ hybridization in 96-well plates as example application for the mass-isolated egg chambers.

Johannes Girstmair, Anne Zakrzewski, François Lapraz, Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Pavel Tomancak, Peter Gabriel Pitrone, Fraser Simpson, Maximilian J Telford
Light-sheet microscopy for everyone? Experience of building an OpenSPIM to study flatworm development.
BMC Dev Biol, 16(1) Art. No. 22 (2016)
Open Access PDF DOI
Selective plane illumination microscopy (SPIM a type of light-sheet microscopy) involves focusing a thin sheet of laser light through a specimen at right angles to the objective lens. As only the thin section of the specimen at the focal plane of the lens is illuminated, out of focus light is naturally absent and toxicity due to light (phototoxicity) is greatly reduced enabling longer term live imaging. OpenSPIM is an open access platform (Pitrone et al. 2013 and OpenSPIM.org) created to give new users step-by-step instructions on building a basic configuration of a SPIM microscope, which can in principle be adapted and upgraded to each laboratory's own requirements and budget. Here we describe our own experience with the process of designing, building, configuring and using an OpenSPIM for our research into the early development of the polyclad flatworm Maritigrella crozieri - a non-model animal.

Hendrik Sollich, Ulrich von Zadow, Tobias Pietzsch, Pavel Tomancak, Raimund Dachselt
Exploring Time-dependent Scientific Data Using Spatially Aware Mobiles and Large Displays
In: Proceedings of the 2016 ACM on Interactive Surfaces and Spaces (2016), New York, ACM (2016), 349-354

Dimitrios Papadopoulos, Aleksandar J Krmpot, Stanko N Nikolić, Robert Krautz, Lars Terenius, Pavel Tomancak, Rudolf Rigler, Walter J Gehring, Vladana Vukojević
Probing the kinetic landscape of Hox transcription factor-DNA binding in live cells by massively parallel Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy.
Mech Dev, 138(2) 218-225 (2015)
Hox genes encode transcription factors that control the formation of body structures, segment-specifically along the anterior-posterior axis of metazoans. Hox transcription factors bind nuclear DNA pervasively and regulate a plethora of target genes, deploying various molecular mechanisms that depend on the developmental and cellular context. To analyze quantitatively the dynamics of their DNA-binding behavior we have used confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), single-point fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy (FCCS) and bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC). We show that the Hox transcription factor Sex combs reduced (Scr) forms dimers that strongly associate with its specific fork head binding site (fkh250) in live salivary gland cell nuclei. In contrast, dimers of a constitutively inactive, phospho-mimicking variant of Scr show weak, non-specific DNA-binding. Our studies reveal that nuclear dynamics of Scr is complex, exhibiting a changing landscape of interactions that is difficult to characterize by probing one point at a time. Therefore, we also provide mechanistic evidence using massively parallel FCS (mpFCS). We found that Scr dimers are predominantly formed on the DNA and are equally abundant at the chromosomes and an introduced multimeric fkh250 binding-site, indicating different mobilities, presumably reflecting transient binding with different affinities on the DNA. Our proof-of-principle results emphasize the advantages of mpFCS for quantitative characterization of fast dynamic processes in live cells.

Wiebke Jahr, Benjamin Schmid, Christopher Schmied, Florian Fahrbach, Jan Huisken
Hyperspectral light sheet microscopy.
Nat Commun, 6 Art. No. 7990 (2015)
Open Access DOI
To study the development and interactions of cells and tissues, multiple fluorescent markers need to be imaged efficiently in a single living organism. Instead of acquiring individual colours sequentially with filters, we created a platform based on line-scanning light sheet microscopy to record the entire spectrum for each pixel in a three-dimensional volume. We evaluated data sets with varying spectral sampling and determined the optimal channel width to be around 5 nm. With the help of these data sets, we show that our setup outperforms filter-based approaches with regard to image quality and discrimination of fluorophores. By spectral unmixing we resolved overlapping fluorophores with up to nanometre resolution and removed autofluorescence in zebrafish and fruit fly embryos.

Tobias Pietzsch#, Stephan Saalfeld, Stephan Preibisch, Pavel Tomancak#
BigDataViewer: visualization and processing for large image data sets.
Nat Methods, 12(6) 481-483 (2015)

Sebastian Dunst, Tom Kazimiers, Felix von Zadow, Helena Jambor, Andreas Sagner, Beate Brankatschk, Ali Mahmoud, Stephanie Spannl, Pavel Tomancak#, Suzanne Eaton#, Marko Brankatschk#
Endogenously Tagged Rab Proteins: A Resource to Study Membrane Trafficking in Drosophila.
Dev Cell, 33(3) 351-365 (2015)
Membrane trafficking is key to the cell biological mechanisms underlying development. Rab GTPases control specific membrane compartments, from core secretory and endocytic machinery to less-well-understood compartments. We tagged all 27 Drosophila Rabs with YFP(MYC) at their endogenous chromosomal loci, determined their expression and subcellular localization in six tissues comprising 23 cell types, and provide this data in an annotated, searchable image database. We demonstrate the utility of these lines for controlled knockdown and show that similar subcellular localization can predict redundant functions. We exploit this comprehensive resource to ask whether a common Rab compartment architecture underlies epithelial polarity. Strikingly, no single arrangement of Rabs characterizes the five epithelia we examine. Rather, epithelia flexibly polarize Rab distribution, producing membrane trafficking architectures that are tissue- and stage-specific. Thus, the core machinery responsible for epithelial polarization is unlikely to rely on polarized positioning of specific Rab compartments.

Matt Kanke, Helena Jambor, John Reich, Brittany Marches, Ronald Gstir, Young Hee Ryu, Anne Ephrussi, Paul M Macdonald
oskar RNA plays multiple noncoding roles to support oogenesis and maintain integrity of the germline/soma distinction.
RNA, 21(6) 1096-1109 (2015)
The Drosophila oskar (osk) mRNA is unusual in that it has both coding and noncoding functions. As an mRNA, osk encodes a protein required for embryonic patterning and germ cell formation. Independent of that function, the absence of osk mRNA disrupts formation of the karyosome and blocks progression through oogenesis. Here we show that loss of osk mRNA also affects the distribution of regulatory proteins, relaxing their association with large RNPs within the germline, and allowing them to accumulate in the somatic follicle cells. This and other noncoding functions of the osk mRNA are mediated by multiple sequence elements with distinct roles. One role, provided by numerous binding sites in two distinct regions of the osk 3' UTR, is to sequester the translational regulator Bruno (Bru), which itself controls translation of osk mRNA. This defines a novel regulatory circuit, with Bru restricting the activity of osk, and osk in turn restricting the activity of Bru. Other functional elements, which do not bind Bru and are positioned close to the 3' end of the RNA, act in the oocyte and are essential. Despite the different roles played by the different types of elements contributing to RNA function, mutation of any leads to accumulation of the germline regulatory factors in the follicle cells.

Florian Jug, Tobias Pietzsch, Dagmar Kainmueller, Gene Myers
Tracking by Assignment Facilitates Data Curation
In: Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention – MICCAI 2014 (2015) IMIC Interactive Medical Image Computing Workshop, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Academic Press (2015), 1-12

Peter Gabriel Pitrone, Johannes Schindelin, Kevin W Eliceiri, Pavel Tomancak, Pavel Tomancak
OpenSPIM: A do-it-yourself open access light sheet fluorescence microscope
Microsc Anal, 29(16) 7-11 (2015)

Patricia Heyn#, Alex T. Kalinka, Pavel Tomancak#, Karla M. Neugebauer
Introns and gene expression: Cellular constraints, transcriptional regulation, and evolutionary consequences.
Bioessays, 37(2) 148-154 (2015)
A gene's "expression profile" denotes the number of transcripts present relative to all other transcripts. The overall rate of transcript production is determined by transcription and RNA processing rates. While the speed of elongating RNA polymerase II has been characterized for many different genes and organisms, gene-architectural features - primarily the number and length of exons and introns - have recently emerged as important regulatory players. Several new studies indicate that rapidly cycling cells constrain gene-architecture toward short genes with a few introns, allowing efficient expression during short cell cycles. In contrast, longer genes with long introns exhibit delayed expression, which can serve as timing mechanisms for patterning processes. These findings indicate that cell cycle constraints drive the evolution of gene-architecture and shape the transcriptome of a given cell type. Furthermore, a tendency for short genes to be evolutionarily young hints at links between cellular constraints and the evolution of animal ontogeny.

Helena Jambor#, Vineeth Surendranath, Alex T. Kalinka, Pavel Mejstrik, Stephan Saalfeld, Pavel Tomancak#
Systematic imaging reveals features and changing localization of mRNAs in Drosophila development.
Elife, 4 Art. No. e05003 (2015)
Open Access DOI
mRNA localization is critical for eukaryotic cells and affects numerous transcripts, yet how cells regulate distribution of many mRNAs to their subcellular destinations is still unknown. We combined transcriptomics and systematic imaging to determine the tissue-specific expression and subcellular distribution of 5862 mRNAs during Drosophila oogenesis. mRNA localization is widespread in the ovary and detectable in all of its cell types-the somatic epithelial, the nurse cells, and the oocyte. Genes defined by a common RNA localization share distinct gene features and differ in expression level, 3'UTR length and sequence conservation from unlocalized mRNAs. Comparison of mRNA localizations in different contexts revealed that localization of individual mRNAs changes over time in the oocyte and between ovarian and embryonic cell types. This genome scale image-based resource (Dresden Ovary Table, DOT.

Emmanuel G. Reynaud, Jan Peychl, Jan Huisken, Pavel Tomancak
Guide to light-sheet microscopy for adventurous biologists.
Nat Methods, 12(1) 30-34 (2015)

Florian Jug, Tobias Pietzsch, Dagmar Kainmueller, Jan Funke, Matthias Kaiser, Erik van Nimwegen, Carsten Rother, Gene Myers
Optimal Joint Segmentation and Tracking of Escherichia Coli in the Mother Machine
In: Bayesian and grAphical models for biomedical imaging first international workshop, BAMBI 2014, Cambridge, MA, USA, September 18, 2014 ; revised selected papers (2014) Lecture Notes in Computer Science ; 8677, New York, Springer (2014), 25-36

Eric Lewitus#, Iva Kelava, Alex T. Kalinka, Pavel Tomancak, Wieland B. Huttner#
An Adaptive Threshold in Mammalian Neocortical Evolution.
PLoS Biol, 12(11) Art. No. e1002000 (2014)
Open Access PDF DOI
Expansion of the neocortex is a hallmark of human evolution. However, determining which adaptive mechanisms facilitated its expansion remains an open question. Here we show, using the gyrencephaly index (GI) and other physiological and life-history data for 102 mammalian species, that gyrencephaly is an ancestral mammalian trait. We find that variation in GI does not evolve linearly across species, but that mammals constitute two principal groups above and below a GI threshold value of 1.5, approximately equal to 109 neurons, which may be characterized by distinct constellations of physiological and life-history traits. By integrating data on neurogenic period, neuroepithelial founder pool size, cell-cycle length, progenitor-type abundances, and cortical neuron number into discrete mathematical models, we identify symmetric proliferative divisions of basal progenitors in the subventricular zone of the developing neocortex as evolutionarily necessary for generating a 14-fold increase in daily prenatal neuron production, traversal of the GI threshold, and thus establishment of two principal groups. We conclude that, despite considerable neuroanatomical differences, changes in the length of the neurogenic period alone, rather than any novel neurogenic progenitor lineage, are sufficient to explain differences in neuron number and neocortical size between species within the same principal group.

Antonella Lauri, Thibaut Brunet, Mette Handberg-Thorsager, Antje H L Fischer, Oleg Simakov, Patrick R H Steinmetz, Raju Tomer, Patrick Keller, Detlev Arendt
Development of the annelid axochord: insights into notochord evolution.
Science, 345(6202) 1365-1368 (2014)
The origin of chordates has been debated for more than a century, with one key issue being the emergence of the notochord. In vertebrates, the notochord develops by convergence and extension of the chordamesoderm, a population of midline cells of unique molecular identity. We identify a population of mesodermal cells in a developing invertebrate, the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii, that converges and extends toward the midline and expresses a notochord-specific combination of genes. These cells differentiate into a longitudinal muscle, the axochord, that is positioned between central nervous system and axial blood vessel and secretes a strong collagenous extracellular matrix. Ancestral state reconstruction suggests that contractile mesodermal midline cells existed in bilaterian ancestors. We propose that these cells, via vacuolization and stiffening, gave rise to the chordate notochord.

Stephan Preibisch#, Fernando Amat, Evangelia Stamataki, Mihail Sarov, Robert H. Singer, Gene Myers, Pavel Tomancak#
Efficient Bayesian-based multiview deconvolution.
Nat Methods, 11(6) 645-648 (2014)
Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy is able to image large specimens with high resolution by capturing the samples from multiple angles. Multiview deconvolution can substantially improve the resolution and contrast of the images, but its application has been limited owing to the large size of the data sets. Here we present a Bayesian-based derivation of multiview deconvolution that drastically improves the convergence time, and we provide a fast implementation using graphics hardware.

Florian Jug✳︎, Tobias Pietzsch✳︎, Stephan Preibisch, Pavel Tomancak
Bioimage Informatics in the context of Drosophila research.
Methods, 68(1) 60-73 (2014)
Modern biological research relies heavily on microscopic imaging. The advanced genetic toolkit of Drosophila makes it possible to label molecular and cellular components with unprecedented level of specificity necessitating the application of the most sophisticated imaging technologies. Imaging in Drosophila spans all scales from single molecules to the entire populations of adult organisms, from electron microscopy to live imaging of developmental processes. As the imaging approaches become more complex and ambitious, there is an increasing need for quantitative, computer-mediated image processing and analysis to make sense of the imagery. Bioimage Informatics is an emerging research field that covers all aspects of biological image analysis from data handling, through processing, to quantitative measurements, analysis and data presentation. Some of the most advanced, large scale projects, combining cutting edge imaging with complex bioimage informatics pipelines, are realized in the Drosophila research community. In this review, we discuss the current research in biological image analysis specifically relevant to the type of systems level image datasets that are uniquely available for the Drosophila model system. We focus on how state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms are impacting the ability of Drosophila researchers to analyze biological systems in space and time. We pay particular attention to how these algorithmic advances from computer science are made usable to practicing biologists through open source platforms and how biologists can themselves participate in their further development.

Helena Jambor, Sandra Mueller, Simon L Bullock, Anne Ephrussi
A stem-loop structure directs oskar mRNA to microtubule minus ends.
RNA, 20(4) 429-439 (2014)
mRNA transport coupled with translational control underlies the intracellular localization of many proteins in eukaryotic cells. This is exemplified in Drosophila, where oskar mRNA transport and translation at the posterior pole of the oocyte direct posterior patterning of the embryo. oskar localization is a multistep process. Within the oocyte, a spliced oskar localization element (SOLE) targets oskar mRNA for plus end-directed transport by kinesin-1 to the posterior pole. However, the signals mediating the initial minus end-directed, dynein-dependent transport of the mRNA from nurse cells into the oocyte have remained unknown. Here, we show that a 67-nt stem-loop in the oskar 3' UTR promotes oskar mRNA delivery to the developing oocyte and that it shares functional features with the fs(1)K10 oocyte localization signal. Thus, two independent cis-acting signals, the oocyte entry signal (OES) and the SOLE, mediate sequential dynein- and kinesin-dependent phases of oskar mRNA transport during oogenesis. The OES also promotes apical localization of injected RNAs in blastoderm stage embryos, another dynein-mediated process. Similarly, when ectopically expressed in polarized cells of the follicular epithelium or salivary glands, reporter RNAs bearing the oskar OES are apically enriched, demonstrating that this element promotes mRNA localization independently of cell type. Our work sheds new light on how oskar mRNA is trafficked during oogenesis and the RNA features that mediate minus end-directed transport.

Patricia Heyn, Martin Kircher, Andreas Dahl, Janet Kelso, Pavel Tomancak#, Alex T. Kalinka, Karla M. Neugebauer#
The Earliest Transcribed Zygotic Genes Are Short, Newly Evolved, and Different across Species.
Cell Rep, 6(2) 285-292 (2014)
Open Access DOI
The transition from maternal to zygotic control is fundamental to the life cycle of all multicellular organisms. It is widely believed that genomes are transcriptionally inactive from fertilization until zygotic genome activation (ZGA). Thus, the earliest genes expressed probably support the rapid cell divisions that precede morphogenesis and, if so, might be evolutionarily conserved. Here, we identify the earliest zygotic transcripts in the zebrafish, Danio rerio, through metabolic labeling and purification of RNA from staged embryos. Surprisingly, the mitochondrial genome was highly active from the one-cell stage onwards, showing that significant transcriptional activity exists at fertilization. We show that 592 nuclear genes become active when cell cycles are still only 15 min long, confining expression to relatively short genes. Furthermore, these zygotic genes are evolutionarily younger than those expressed at other developmental stages. Comparison of fish, fly, and mouse data revealed different sets of genes expressed at ZGA. This species specificity uncovers an evolutionary plasticity in early embryogenesis that probably confers substantial adaptive potential.

Matthew A Benton, Anastasios Pavlopoulos
Tribolium embryo morphogenesis: May the force be with you.
Bioarchitecture, 4(1) 16-21 (2014)
Development of multicellular organisms depends on patterning and growth mechanisms encoded in the genome, but also on the physical properties and mechanical interactions of the constituent cells that interpret these genetic cues. This fundamental biological problem requires integrated studies at multiple levels of biological organization: from genes, to cell behaviors, to tissue morphogenesis. We have recently combined functional genetics with live imaging approaches in embryos of the insect Tribolium castaneum, in order to understand their remarkable transformation from a uniform single-layered blastoderm into a condensed multi-layered embryo covered by extensive extra-embryonic tissues. We first developed a quick and reliable methodology to fluorescently label various cell components in entire Tribolium embryos. Live imaging of labeled embryos at single cell resolution provided detailed descriptions of cell behaviors and tissue movements during normal embryogenesis. We then compared cell and tissue dynamics between wild-type and genetically perturbed embryos that exhibited altered relative proportions of constituent tissues. This systematic comparison led to a qualitative model of the molecular, cellular and tissue interactions that orchestrate the observed epithelial rearrangements. We expect this work to establish the Tribolium embryo as a powerful and attractive model system for biologists and biophysicists interested in the molecular, cellular and mechanical control of tissue morphogenesis.

Christopher Schmied, Evangelia Stamataki, Pavel Tomancak
Open-source solutions for SPIMage processing.
Methods Cell Biol, 123 505-529 (2014)
Light sheet microscopy is an emerging technique allowing comprehensive visualization of dynamic biological processes, at high spatial and temporal resolution without significant damage to the sample by the imaging process itself. It thus lends itself to time-lapse observation of fluorescently labeled molecular markers over long periods of time in a living specimen. In combination with sample rotation light sheet microscopy and in particular its selective plane illumination microscopy (SPIM) flavor, enables imaging of relatively large specimens, such as embryos of animal model organisms, in their entirety. The benefits of SPIM multiview imaging come to the cost of image data postprocessing necessary to deliver the final output that can be analyzed. Here, we provide a set of practical recipes that walk biologists through the complex processes of SPIM data registration, fusion, deconvolution, and time-lapse registration using publicly available open-source tools. We explain, in plain language, the basic principles behind SPIM image-processing algorithms that should enable users to make informed decisions during parameter tuning of the various processing steps applied to their own datasets. Importantly, the protocols presented here are applicable equally to processing of multiview SPIM data from the commercial Zeiss Lightsheet Z.1 microscope and from the open-access SPIM platforms such as OpenSPIM.

Ines Wagner, Michael Volkmer, Malvika Sharan, Jose M Villaveces, Felix Oswald, Vineeth Surendranath, Bianca Habermann
morFeus: a web-based program to detect remotely conserved orthologs using symmetrical best hits and orthology network scoring.
BMC Bioinformatics, 15 Art. No. 263 (2014)
Open Access DOI
Searching the orthologs of a given protein or DNA sequence is one of the most important and most commonly used Bioinformatics methods in Biology. Programs like BLAST or the orthology search engine Inparanoid can be used to find orthologs when the similarity between two sequences is sufficiently high. They however fail when the level of conservation is low. The detection of remotely conserved proteins oftentimes involves sophisticated manual intervention that is difficult to automate.

Emilio Gualda, Nuno Moreno, Pavel Tomancak, Gabriel G Martins
Going "open" with Mesoscopy: a new dimension on multi-view imaging.
Protoplasma, 251(2) 363-372 (2014)
OpenSPIM and OpenSpinMicroscopy emerged as open access platforms for Light Sheet and Optical Projection Imaging, often called as optical mesoscopy techniques. Both projects can be easily reproduced using comprehensive online instructions that should foster the implementation and further development of optical imaging techniques with sample rotation control. This additional dimension in an open system offers the possibility to make multi-view microscopy easily modified and will complement the emerging commercial solutions. Furthermore, it is deeply based on other open platforms such as MicroManager and Arduino, enabling development of tailored setups for very specific biological questions. In our perspective, the open access principle of OpenSPIM and OpenSpinMicroscopy is a game-changer, helping the concepts of light sheet and optical projection tomography (OPT) to enter the mainstream of biological imaging.

Alexis Webb, Daniele Soroldoni, Annelie Oswald, Johannes Schindelin, Andrew C. Oates
Generation of dispersed presomitic mesoderm cell cultures for imaging of the zebrafish segmentation clock in single cells.
J Vis Exp, (89) Art. No. e50307 (2014)
Segmentation is a periodic and sequential morphogenetic process in vertebrates. This rhythmic formation of blocks of tissue called somites along the body axis is evidence of a genetic oscillator patterning the developing embryo. In zebrafish, the intracellular clock driving segmentation is comprised of members of the Her/Hes transcription factor family organized into negative feedback loops. We have recently generated transgenic fluorescent reporter lines for the cyclic gene her1 that recapitulate the spatio-temporal pattern of oscillations in the presomitic mesoderm (PSM). Using these lines, we developed an in vitro culture system that allows real-time analysis of segmentation clock oscillations within single, isolated PSM cells. By removing PSM tissue from transgenic embryos and then dispersing cells from oscillating regions onto glass-bottom dishes, we generated cultures suitable for time-lapse imaging of fluorescence signal from individual clock cells. This approach provides an experimental and conceptual framework for direct manipulation of the segmentation clock with unprecedented single-cell resolution, allowing its cell-autonomous and tissue-level properties to be distinguished and dissected.

Ivana Viktorinová, Christian Dahmann
Microtubule Polarity Predicts Direction of Egg Chamber Rotation in Drosophila.
Curr Biol, 23(15) 1472-1477 (2013)
Whole-tissue rotations have recently been recognized as a widespread morphogenetic process important for tissue elongation [1-4]. In Drosophila ovaries, elongation of the egg chamber involves a global rotation of the follicle epithelium along the anterior-posterior axis [5]. Individual egg chambers rotate either in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction; however, how the symmetry of egg chambers is broken to allow rotation remains unknown. Here we show that at the basal side of follicle cells, microtubules are preferentially aligned perpendicular to the anterior-posterior axis of the egg chamber. Microtubule depolymerization stalls egg chamber rotation and egg chamber elongation. The preferential alignment of microtubules and egg chamber rotation depend on the atypical cadherin Fat2 and the planar polarized Fat2 localization depends on intact microtubules. Moreover, by tracking microtubule plus-end growth in vivo using EB1::GFP, we find that microtubules are highly polarized in the plane of the follicle epithelium. Polarization of microtubules precedes the onset of egg chamber rotation and predicts the direction of rotation. Our data suggest a feedback amplification mechanism between Fat2 localization and microtubule polarity involved in breaking symmetry and directing egg chamber rotation.

Matthew A Benton, Michael Akam, Anastasios Pavlopoulos
Cell and tissue dynamics during Tribolium embryogenesis revealed by versatile fluorescence labeling approaches.
Development, 140(15) 3210-3220 (2013)
Studies on new arthropod models such as the beetle Tribolium castaneum are shifting our knowledge of embryonic patterning and morphogenesis beyond the Drosophila paradigm. In contrast to Drosophila, Tribolium embryos exhibit the short-germ type of development and become enveloped by extensive extra-embryonic membranes, the amnion and serosa. The genetic basis of these processes has been the focus of active research. Here, we complement genetic approaches with live fluorescence imaging of Tribolium embryos to make the link between gene function and morphogenetic cell behaviors during blastoderm formation and differentiation, germband condensation and elongation, and extra-embryonic development. We first show that transient labeling methods result in strong, homogeneous and persistent expression of fluorescent markers in Tribolium embryos, labeling the chromatin, membrane, cytoskeleton or combinations thereof. We then use co-injection of fluorescent markers with dsRNA for live imaging of embryos with disrupted caudal gene function caused by RNA interference. Using these approaches, we describe and compare cell and tissue dynamics in Tribolium embryos with wild-type and altered fate maps. We find that Tribolium germband condensation is effected by cell contraction and intercalation, with the latter being dependent on the anterior-posterior patterning system. We propose that germband condensation drives initiation of amnion folding, whereas expansion of the amniotic fold and closure of the amniotic cavity are likely driven by contraction of an actomyosin cable at the boundary between the amnion and serosa. Our methodology provides a comprehensive framework for testing quantitative models of patterning, growth and morphogenetic mechanisms in Tribolium and other arthropod species.

Peter Gabriel Pitrone✳︎, Johannes Schindelin✳︎, Luke Stuyvenberg, Stephan Preibisch, Michael Weber, Kevin W Eliceiri, Jan Huisken, Pavel Tomancak
OpenSPIM: an open access light sheet microscopy platform
Nat Methods, 10(7) 598-599 (2013)
Light-sheet microscopy is revolutionizing biology by enabling live in toto imaging of entire embryos or organs with minimal phototoxicity1. We present an open hardware and software platform for constructing a customizable microscope for selective- plane illumination microscopy (SPIM). The OpenSPIM platform is shared with the scientific community through a public website (http://openspim.org/), making light-sheet microscopy more acces- sible so that it can be optimized for various applications.

Eric Lewitus, Alex T. Kalinka
Neocortical development as an evolutionary platform for intragenomic conflict.
Front Neuroanat, 7 Art. No. 2 (2013)
Open Access DOI
Embryonic development in mammals has evolved a platform for genomic conflict between mothers and embryos and, by extension, between maternal and paternal genomes. The evolutionary interests of the mother and embryo may be maximized through the promotion of sex-chromosome genes and imprinted alleles, resulting in the rapid evolution of postzygotic phenotypes preferential to either the maternal or paternal genome. In eutherian mammals, extraordinary in utero maternal investment in the brain, and neocortex especially, suggests that convergent evolution of an expanded mammalian neocortex along divergent lineages may be explained, in part, by parent-of-origin-linked gene expression arising from parent-offspring conflict. The influence of this conflict on neocortical development and evolution, however, has not been investigated at the genomic level. In this hypothesis and theory article, we provide preliminary evidence for positive selection in humans in the regions of two platforms of intragenomic conflict-chromosomes 15q11-q13 and X-and explore the potential relevance of cis-regulated imprinted domains to neocortical expansion in mammalian evolution. We present the hypothesis that maternal- and paternal-specific pressures on the developing neocortex compete intragenomically to influence neocortical expansion in mammalian evolution.

Stephan Saalfeld
Towards Large Scale Reconstruction of Neuro-Anatomy at Nanometer Resolution
Ph.D. Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2013)

Alex T. Kalinka, Iva Kelava, Eric Lewitus
Our robust intellect.
Trends Genet, 29(3) 125-127 (2013)

Radhakrishnan Nagarajan, Alex T. Kalinka, William R Hogan
Evidence of community structure in Biomedical Research Grant Collaborations.
J Biomed Inform, 46(1) 40-46 (2013)
Recent studies have clearly demonstrated a shift towards collaborative research and team science approaches across a spectrum of disciplines. Such collaborative efforts have also been acknowledged and nurtured by popular extramurally funded programs including the Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) conferred by the National Institutes of Health. Since its inception, the number of CTSA awardees has steadily increased to 60 institutes across 30 states. One of the objectives of CTSA is to accelerate translation of research from bench to bedside to community and train a new genre of researchers under the translational research umbrella. Feasibility of such a translation implicitly demands multi-disciplinary collaboration and mentoring. Networks have proven to be convenient abstractions for studying research collaborations. The present study is a part of the CTSA baseline study and investigates existence of possible community-structure in Biomedical Research Grant Collaboration (BRGC) networks across data sets retrieved from the internally developed grants management system, the Automated Research Information Administrator (ARIA) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Fastgreedy and link-community community-structure detection algorithms were used to investigate the presence of non-overlapping and overlapping community-structure and their variation across years 2006 and 2009. A surrogate testing approach in conjunction with appropriate discriminant statistics, namely: the modularity index and the maximum partition density is proposed to investigate whether the community-structure of the BRGC networks were different from those generated by certain types of random graphs. Non-overlapping as well as overlapping community-structure detection algorithms indicated the presence of community-structure in the BRGC network. Subsequent, surrogate testing revealed that random graph models considered in the present study may not necessarily be appropriate generative mechanisms of the community-structure in the BRGC networks. The discrepancy in the community-structure between the BRGC networks and the random graph surrogates was especially pronounced at 2009 as opposed to 2006 indicating a possible shift towards team-science and formation of non-trivial modular patterns with time. The results also clearly demonstrate presence of inter-departmental and multi-disciplinary collaborations in BRGC networks. While the results are presented on BRGC networks as a part of the CTSA baseline study at UAMS, the proposed methodologies are as such generic with potential to be extended across other CTSA organizations. Understanding the presence of community-structure can supplement more traditional network analysis as they're useful in identifying research teams and their inter-connections as opposed to the role of individual nodes in the network. Such an understanding can be a critical step prior to devising meaningful interventions for promoting team-science, multi-disciplinary collaborations, cross-fertilization of ideas across research teams and identifying suitable mentors. Understanding the temporal evolution of these communities may also be useful in CTSA evaluation.

Madina Karimova, Josephine Abi-Ghanem, Nicolas Berger, Vineeth Surendranath, Maria Teresa Pisabarro, Frank Buchholz
Vika/vox, a novel efficient and specific Cre/loxP-like site-specific recombination system.
Nucleic Acids Res, 41(2) Art. No. e37 (2013)
Open Access PDF DOI
Targeted genome engineering has become an important research area for diverse disciplines, with site-specific recombinases (SSRs) being among the most popular genome engineering tools. Their ability to trigger excision, integration, inversion and translocation has made SSRs an invaluable tool to manipulate DNA in vitro and in vivo. However, sophisticated strategies that combine different SSR systems are ever increasing. Hence, the demand for additional precise and efficient recombinases is dictated by the increasing complexity of the genetic studies. Here, we describe a novel site-specific recombination system designated Vika/vox. Vika originates from a degenerate bacteriophage of Vibrio coralliilyticus and shares low sequence similarity to other tyrosine recombinases, but functionally carries out a similar type of reaction. We demonstrate that Vika is highly specific in catalyzing vox recombination without recombining target sites from other SSR systems. We also compare the recombination activity of Vika/vox with other SSR systems, providing a guideline for deciding on the most suitable enzyme for a particular application and demonstrate that Vika expression does not cause cytotoxicity in mammalian cells. Our results show that Vika/vox is a novel powerful and safe instrument in the 'genetic toolbox' that can be used alone or in combination with other SSRs in heterologous hosts.

Alex T. Kalinka
The probability of drawing intersections: extending the hypergeometric distribution
arXiv, Art. No. arXiv:1305.0717 (2013)
Open Access

Vineeth Surendranath, Mirko Theis, Bianca Habermann, Frank Buchholz
Designing efficient and specific endoribonuclease-prepared siRNAs.
Methods Mol Biol, 942 193-204 (2013)
RNA interference (RNAi) has grown to be one of the main techniques for loss-of-function studies, leading to the elucidation of biological function of genes in various cellular systems and model organisms. While for many invertebrates such as Drosophila melanogaster (D. melanogaster) and Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) can directly be used to induce a RNAi response, chemically synthesized small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are typically employed in mammalian cells to avoid an interferon-like response triggered by long dsRNA (Reynolds et al., RNA 12:988-993, 2006). However, siRNAs are expensive and beset with unintentional gene targeting effects (off-targets) confounding the analysis of results from such studies. We, and others, have developed an alternative technology for RNAi in mammalian cells, termed endoribonuclease-prepared siRNA (esiRNA), which is based on the enzymatic generation of siRNA pools by digestion of long dsRNAs with recombinant RNase III in vitro (Yang et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99: 9942-9947, 2002; Myers et al., Nat Biotechnol 21:324-328; 2003). This technology has proven to be cost-efficient and reliable. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated that complex pools of siRNAs, as inherent in esiRNAs, which target one transcript reduce off-target effects (Myers et al., J RNAi Gene Silencing 2:181, 2006; Kittler et al., Nat Methods 4:337-344, 2007). Within this chapter we describe design criteria for the generation of target-optimized esiRNAs.

Eric Lewitus✳︎, Iva Kelava✳︎, Alex T. Kalinka, Pavel Tomancak, Wieland B. Huttner
An Adaptive Threshold in Mammalian Neocortical Evolution
bioRxiv, Art. No. https://doi.org/10.1101/001289 (2013)
Open Access PDF DOI

Melek Asli Kayserili✳︎, Dave T. Gerrard✳︎, Pavel Tomancak#, Alex T. Kalinka#
An excess of gene expression divergence on the x chromosome in Drosophila embryos: implications for the faster-x hypothesis.
PLoS Genet, 8(12) Art. No. e1003200 (2012)
Open Access DOI
The X chromosome is present as a single copy in the heterogametic sex, and this hemizygosity is expected to drive unusual patterns of evolution on the X relative to the autosomes. For example, the hemizgosity of the X may lead to a lower chromosomal effective population size compared to the autosomes, suggesting that the X might be more strongly affected by genetic drift. However, the X may also experience stronger positive selection than the autosomes, because recessive beneficial mutations will be more visible to selection on the X where they will spend less time being masked by the dominant, less beneficial allele-a proposal known as the faster-X hypothesis. Thus, empirical studies demonstrating increased genetic divergence on the X chromosome could be indicative of either adaptive or non-adaptive evolution. We measured gene expression in Drosophila species and in D. melanogaster inbred strains for both embryos and adults. In the embryos we found that expression divergence is on average more than 20% higher for genes on the X chromosome relative to the autosomes; but in contrast, in the inbred strains, gene expression variation is significantly lower on the X chromosome. Furthermore, expression divergence of genes on Muller's D element is significantly greater along the branch leading to the obscura sub-group, in which this element segregates as a neo-X chromosome. In the adults, divergence is greatest on the X chromosome for males, but not for females, yet in both sexes inbred strains harbour the lowest level of gene expression variation on the X chromosome. We consider different explanations for our results and conclude that they are most consistent within the framework of the faster-X hypothesis.

Johannes Schindelin, Ignacio Arganda-Carreras, Erwin Frise, Verena Kaynig, Mark Longair, Tobias Pietzsch, Stephan Preibisch, Curtis Rueden, Stephan Saalfeld, Benjamin Schmid, Jean-Yves Tinevez, Dan White, Volker Hartenstein, Kevin W Eliceiri, Pavel Tomancak#, Albert Cardona#
Fiji: an open-source platform for biological-image analysis.
Nat Methods, 9(7) 676-682 (2012)
Fiji is a distribution of the popular open-source software ImageJ focused on biological-image analysis. Fiji uses modern software engineering practices to combine powerful software libraries with a broad range of scripting languages to enable rapid prototyping of image-processing algorithms. Fiji facilitates the transformation of new algorithms into ImageJ plugins that can be shared with end users through an integrated update system. We propose Fiji as a platform for productive collaboration between computer science and biology research communities.

Albert Cardona, Pavel Tomancak
Current challenges in open-source bioimage informatics.
Nat Methods, 9(7) 661-665 (2012)

Kevin W Eliceiri, Michael R Berthold, Ilya G Goldberg, Luis Ibáñez, B S Manjunath, Maryann E Martone, Robert F Murphy, Hanchuan Peng, Anne L Plant, Badrinath Roysam, Nico Stuurmann, Jason R Swedlow, Pavel Tomancak, Anne E Carpenter
Biological imaging software tools.
Nat Methods, 9(7) 697-710 (2012)
Few technologies are more widespread in modern biological laboratories than imaging. Recent advances in optical technologies and instrumentation are providing hitherto unimagined capabilities. Almost all these advances have required the development of software to enable the acquisition, management, analysis and visualization of the imaging data. We review each computational step that biologists encounter when dealing with digital images, the inherent challenges and the overall status of available software for bioimage informatics, focusing on open-source options.

Stephan Saalfeld, Richard Fetter, Albert Cardona#, Pavel Tomancak#
Elastic volume reconstruction from series of ultra-thin microscopy sections.
Nat Methods, 9(7) 717-720 (2012)
Anatomy of large biological specimens is often reconstructed from serially sectioned volumes imaged by high-resolution microscopy. We developed a method to reassemble a continuous volume from such large section series that explicitly minimizes artificial deformation by applying a global elastic constraint. We demonstrate our method on a series of transmission electron microscopy sections covering the entire 558-cell Caenorhabditis elegans embryo and a segment of the Drosophila melanogaster larval ventral nerve cord.

Alex T. Kalinka#, Pavel Tomancak#
The evolution of early animal embryos: conservation or divergence?
Trends Ecol Evol, 27(7) 385-393 (2012)

Iva Kelava, Isabel Reillo, Ayako Y Murayama, Alex T. Kalinka, Denise Stenzel, Pavel Tomancak, Fumio Matsuzaki, Cécile Lebrand, Erika Sasaki, Jens C Schwamborn, Hideyuki Okano, Wieland B. Huttner, Víctor Borrell
Abundant occurrence of basal radial glia in the subventricular zone of embryonic neocortex of a lissencephalic primate, the common marmoset Callithrix jacchus.
Cereb Cortex, 22(2) 469-481 (2012)
Subventricular zone (SVZ) progenitors are a hallmark of the developing neocortex. Recent studies described a novel type of SVZ progenitor that retains a basal process at mitosis, sustains expression of radial glial markers, and is capable of self-renewal. These progenitors, referred to here as basal radial glia (bRG), occur at high relative abundance in the SVZ of gyrencephalic primates (human) and nonprimates (ferret) but not lissencephalic rodents (mouse). Here, we analyzed the occurrence of bRG cells in the embryonic neocortex of the common marmoset Callithrix jacchus, a near-lissencephalic primate. bRG cells, expressing Pax6, Sox2 (but not Tbr2), glutamate aspartate transporter, and glial fibrillary acidic protein and retaining a basal process at mitosis, occur at similar relative abundance in the marmoset SVZ as in human and ferret. The proportion of progenitors in M-phase was lower in embryonic marmoset than developing ferret neocortex, raising the possibility of a longer cell cycle. Fitting the gyrification indices of 26 anthropoid species to an evolutionary model suggested that the marmoset evolved from a gyrencephalic ancestor. Our results suggest that a high relative abundance of bRG cells may be necessary, but is not sufficient, for gyrencephaly and that the marmoset's lissencephaly evolved secondarily by changing progenitor parameters other than progenitor type.

Albert Cardona, Stephan Saalfeld, Johannes Schindelin, Ignacio Arganda-Carreras, Stephan Preibisch, Mark Longair, Pavel Tomancak, Volker Hartenstein, Rodney J Douglas
TrakEM2 Software for Neural Circuit Reconstruction.
PLoS ONE, 7(6) Art. No. e38011 (2012)
Open Access DOI
A key challenge in neuroscience is the expeditious reconstruction of neuronal circuits. For model systems such as Drosophila and C. elegans, the limiting step is no longer the acquisition of imagery but the extraction of the circuit from images. For this purpose, we designed a software application, TrakEM2, that addresses the systematic reconstruction of neuronal circuits from large electron microscopical and optical image volumes. We address the challenges of image volume composition from individual, deformed images; of the reconstruction of neuronal arbors and annotation of synapses with fast manual and semi-automatic methods; and the management of large collections of both images and annotations. The output is a neural circuit of 3d arbors and synapses, encoded in NeuroML and other formats, ready for analysis.

Tobias Pietzsch✳︎, Stephan Preibisch✳︎, Pavel Tomancak, Stephan Saalfeld
ImgLib2 – Generic Image Processing in Java
Bioinformatics, 28(22) 3009-3011 (2012)

Helena Jambor, Christine Brunel, Anne Ephrussi
Dimerization of oskar 3' UTRs promotes hitchhiking for RNA localization in the Drosophila oocyte.
RNA, 17(12) 2049-2057 (2011)
mRNA localization coupled with translational control is a highly conserved and widespread mechanism for restricting protein expression to specific sites within eukaryotic cells. In Drosophila, patterning of the embryo requires oskar mRNA transport to the posterior pole of the oocyte and translational repression prior to localization. oskar RNA splicing and the 3' untranslated region (UTR) are required for posterior enrichment of the mRNA. However, reporter RNAs harboring the oskar 3' UTR can localize by hitchhiking with endogenous oskar transcripts. Here we show that the oskar 3' UTR contains a stem-loop structure that promotes RNA dimerization in vitro and hitchhiking in vivo. Mutations in the loop that abolish in vitro dimerization interfere with reporter RNA localization, and restoring loop complementarity restores hitchhiking. Our analysis provides insight into the molecular basis of RNA hitchhiking, whereby localization-incompetent RNA molecules can become locally enriched in the cytoplasm, by virtue of their association with transport-competent RNAs.

Mohammad Shorif Uddin, Hwee Kuan Lee, Stephan Preibisch, Pavel Tomancak
Restoration of Uneven Illumination in Light Sheet Microscopy Images.
Microsc microanal, 17(4) 607-613 (2011)
Light microscopy images suffer from poor contrast due to light absorption and scattering by the media. The resulting decay in contrast varies exponentially across the image along the incident light path. Classical space invariant deconvolution approaches, while very effective in deblurring, are not designed for the restoration of uneven illumination in microscopy images. In this article, we present a modified radiative transfer theory approach to solve the contrast degradation problem of light sheet microscopy (LSM) images. We confirmed the effectiveness of our approach through simulation as well as real LSM images.

Kamil A Lipinski, Olga Puchta, Vineeth Surandranath, Marek Kudla, Pawel Golik
Revisiting the Yeast PPR Proteins - Application of an Iterative Hidden Markov Model Algorithm Reveals New Members of the Rapidly Evolving Family.
Mol Biol Evol, 28(10) 2935-2948 (2011)
Pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins form the largest known RNA-binding protein family, and are found in all eukaryotes, being particularly abundant in higher plants. PPR proteins localize mostly to mitochondria and chloroplasts, and many were shown to modulate organellar genome expression on the posttranscriptional level. While the genomes of land plants encode hundreds of PPR proteins, only a few have been identified in Fungi and Metazoa. As the current PPR motif profiles are built mainly on the basis of the predominant plant sequences, they are unlikely to be optimal for detecting fungal and animal members of the family, and many putative PPR proteins in these genomes may remain undetected. In order to verify this hypothesis we designed a HMM-based bioinformatic tool called SCIPHER (Supervised Clustering-based Iterative Phylogenetic Hidden Markov Model algorithm for the Evaluation of tandem Repeat motif families) using sequence data from orthologous clusters from available yeast genomes. This approach allowed us to assign twelve new proteins in S. cerevisiae to the PPR family. Similarly, in other yeast species we obtained a five-fold increase in the detection of PPR motifs, compared to the previous tools. All the newly identified S. cerevisiae PPR proteins localize in the mitochondrion and are a part of the RNA processing interaction network. Furthermore, the yeast PPR proteins seem to undergo an accelerated divergent evolution. Analysis of single and double amino acid substitutions in the Dmr1 protein of S. cerevisiae suggests that cooperative interactions between motifs and pseudoreversion could be the force driving this rapid evolution.

Alex T. Kalinka, Pavel Tomancak
linkcomm: an R package for the generation, visualization, and analysis of link communities in networks of arbitrary size and type.
Bioinformatics, 27(14) 2011-2012 (2011)
SUMMARY: An essential element when analysing the structure, function, and dynamics of biological networks is the identification of communities of related nodes. An algorithm proposed recently enhances this process by clustering the links between nodes, rather than the nodes themselves, thereby allowing each node to belong to multiple overlapping or nested communities. The R package "linkcomm" implements this algorithm and extends it in several aspects: i) the clustering algorithm handles networks that are weighted, directed, or both weighted and directed; ii) several visualization methods are implemented that facilitate the representation of the link communities and their relationships; iii) a suite of functions are included for the downstream analysis of the link communities including novel community-based measures of node centrality; iv) the main algorithm is written in C++ and designed to handle networks of any size; v) several clustering methods are available for networks that can be handled in memory, and the number of communities can be adjusted by the user. AVAILABILITY: The program is freely available from the Comprehensive R Archive Network (http://cran.r-project.org/) under the terms of the GNU General Public License (version 2 or later). CONTACT: kalinka@mpi-cbg.de SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Stephan Preibisch
Reconstruction of Multi-Tile Microscopic Acquisitions
Ph.D. Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2011)

Radoslaw K Ejsmont, Peter Ahlfeld, Andrei I. Pozniakovsky, A Francis Stewart, Pavel Tomancak#, Mihail Sarov#
Recombination-mediated genetic engineering of large genomic DNA transgenes.
Methods Mol Biol, 772 445-458 (2011)
Faithful gene activity reporters are a useful tool for evo-devo studies enabling selective introduction of specific loci between species and assaying the activity of large gene regulatory sequences. The use of large genomic constructs such as BACs and fosmids provides an efficient platform for exploration of gene function under endogenous regulatory control. Despite their large size they can be easily engineered using in vivo homologous recombination in Escherichia coli (recombineering). We have previously demonstrated that the efficiency and fidelity of recombineering are sufficient to allow high-throughput transgene engineering in liquid culture, and have successfully applied this approach in several model systems. Here, we present a detailed protocol for recombineering of BAC/fosmid transgenes for expression of fluorescent or affinity tagged proteins in Drosophila under endogenous in vivo regulatory control. The tag coding sequence is seamlessly recombineered into the genomic region contained in the BAC/fosmid clone, which is then integrated into the fly genome using ?C31 recombination. This protocol can be easily adapted to other recombineering projects.

Radoslaw K Ejsmont, Maria Bogdanzaliewa, Kamil A Lipinski, Pavel Tomancak
Production of fosmid genomic libraries optimized for liquid culture recombineering and cross-species transgenesis.
Methods Mol Biol, 772 423-443 (2011)
Genomic DNA libraries are a valuable source of large constructs that can contain all the regulatory elements necessary for recapitulating wild-type gene expression when introduced into animal genomes as a transgene. Such clones can be directly used in complementation studies. In combination with recombineering manipulation, the tagged genomic clones can serve as faithful in vivo gene activity reporters that enable studies of tissue specificity of gene expression, subcellular protein localization, and affinity purification of complexes. We present a detailed protocol for generating an unbiased genomic library in a custom pFlyFos vector that is optimized for liquid culture recombineering manipulation and site-specific transgenesis of fosmid-size loci across different Drosophila species. The cross-species properties of the library can be used, for example, to establish the specificity of RNAi phenotypes or to selectively introgress specific genomic loci among different Drosophila species making it an ideal tool for experimental evolutionary studies. The FlyFos system can be easily adapted to other organisms.

Radoslaw K Ejsmont
A toolkit for visualization of patterns of gene expression in live Drosophila embryos
Ph.D. Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2011)

Alex T. Kalinka✳︎, Karolina M Varga✳︎, Dave T. Gerrard, Stephan Preibisch, David L. Corcoran, Julia Jarrells, Uwe Ohler, Casey M. Bergman, Pavel Tomancak
Gene expression divergence recapitulates the developmental hourglass model.
Nature, 468(7325) 811-814 (2010)
The observation that animal morphology tends to be conserved during the embryonic phylotypic period (a period of maximal similarity between the species within each animal phylum) led to the proposition that embryogenesis diverges more extensively early and late than in the middle, known as the hourglass model. This pattern of conservation is thought to reflect a major constraint on the evolution of animal body plans. Despite a wealth of morphological data confirming that there is often remarkable divergence in the early and late embryos of species from the same phylum, it is not yet known to what extent gene expression evolution, which has a central role in the elaboration of different animal forms, underpins the morphological hourglass pattern. Here we address this question using species-specific microarrays designed from six sequenced Drosophila species separated by up to 40 million years. We quantify divergence at different times during embryogenesis, and show that expression is maximally conserved during the arthropod phylotypic period. By fitting different evolutionary models to each gene, we show that at each time point more than 80% of genes fit best to models incorporating stabilizing selection, and that for genes whose evolutionarily optimal expression level is the same across all species, selective constraint is maximized during the phylotypic period. The genes that conform most to the hourglass pattern are involved in key developmental processes. These results indicate that natural selection acts to conserve patterns of gene expression during mid-embryogenesis, and provide a genome-wide insight into the molecular basis of the hourglass pattern of developmental evolution.

Fernando Carrillo Oesterreich, Stephan Preibisch, Karla M. Neugebauer
Global analysis of nascent RNA reveals transcriptional pausing in terminal exons.
Mol Cell, 40(4) 571-581 (2010)
Pre-mRNA splicing is catalyzed by the spliceosome, which can assemble on pre-mRNA cotranscriptionally. However, whether splicing generally occurs during transcription has not been addressed. Indeed, splicing catalysis is expected to occur posttranscriptionally in yeast, where the shortness of terminal exons should leave insufficient time for splicing. Here, we isolate endogenous S. cerevisiae nascent RNA and determine gene-specific splicing efficiencies and transcription profiles, using high-density tiling microarrays. Surprisingly, we find that splicing occurs cotranscriptionally for the majority of intron-containing genes. Analysis of transcription profiles reveals Pol II pausing within the terminal exons of these genes. Intronless and inefficiently spliced genes lack this pause. In silico simulations of transcription and splicing kinetics confirm that this pausing event provides sufficient time for splicing before termination. The discovery of terminal exon pausing demonstrates functional coupling of transcription and splicing near gene ends.

Pablo Oteiza✳︎, Mathias Köppen✳︎, Michael Krieg, Eduardo Pulgar, Cecilia Farias, Cristina Melo, Stephan Preibisch, Daniel J. Müller, Masazumi Tada, Steffen Hartel, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, Miguel L Concha
Planar cell polarity signalling regulates cell adhesion properties in progenitors of the zebrafish laterality organ.
Development, 137(20) 3459-3468 (2010)
Organ formation requires the precise assembly of progenitor cells into a functional multicellular structure. Mechanical forces probably participate in this process but how they influence organ morphogenesis is still unclear. Here, we show that Wnt11- and Prickle1a-mediated planar cell polarity (PCP) signalling coordinates the formation of the zebrafish ciliated laterality organ (Kupffer's vesicle) by regulating adhesion properties between organ progenitor cells (the dorsal forerunner cells, DFCs). Combined inhibition of Wnt11 and Prickle1a reduces DFC cell-cell adhesion and impairs their compaction and arrangement during vesicle lumen formation. This leads to the formation of a mis-shapen vesicle with small fragmented lumina and shortened cilia, resulting in severely impaired organ function and, as a consequence, randomised laterality of both molecular and visceral asymmetries. Our results reveal a novel role for PCP-dependent cell adhesion in coordinating the supracellular organisation of progenitor cells during vertebrate laterality organ formation.

Albert Cardona, Stephan Saalfeld, Stephan Preibisch, Benjamin Schmid, Anchi Cheng, Jim Pulokas, Pavel Tomancák, Volker Hartenstein
An integrated micro- and macroarchitectural analysis of the Drosophila brain by computer-assisted serial section electron microscopy.
PLoS Biol, 8(10) Art. No. e1000502 (2010)
Open Access PDF DOI
The analysis of microcircuitry (the connectivity at the level of individual neuronal processes and synapses), which is indispensable for our understanding of brain function, is based on serial transmission electron microscopy (TEM) or one of its modern variants. Due to technical limitations, most previous studies that used serial TEM recorded relatively small stacks of individual neurons. As a result, our knowledge of microcircuitry in any nervous system is very limited. We applied the software package TrakEM2 to reconstruct neuronal microcircuitry from TEM sections of a small brain, the early larval brain of Drosophila melanogaster. TrakEM2 enables us to embed the analysis of the TEM image volumes at the microcircuit level into a light microscopically derived neuro-anatomical framework, by registering confocal stacks containing sparsely labeled neural structures with the TEM image volume. We imaged two sets of serial TEM sections of the Drosophila first instar larval brain neuropile and one ventral nerve cord segment, and here report our first results pertaining to Drosophila brain microcircuitry. Terminal neurites fall into a small number of generic classes termed globular, varicose, axiform, and dendritiform. Globular and varicose neurites have large diameter segments that carry almost exclusively presynaptic sites. Dendritiform neurites are thin, highly branched processes that are almost exclusively postsynaptic. Due to the high branching density of dendritiform fibers and the fact that synapses are polyadic, neurites are highly interconnected even within small neuropile volumes. We describe the network motifs most frequently encountered in the Drosophila neuropile. Our study introduces an approach towards a comprehensive anatomical reconstruction of neuronal microcircuitry and delivers microcircuitry comparisons between vertebrate and insect neuropile.

Richard Karel Capek, Michael Weber, Alexander Eychmüller
Alternative Incorporation Procedure of Quantum Dots in Polymer Microspheres
Chem Mater, 22(17) 4912-4918 (2010)
Quantum dot doped microspheres possess a broad range of possible applications from photonics to biolabeling. These doped microspheres can be prepared by many different approaches. Here we will focus on a strategy, where first prepared polymer microspheres are subsequently doped with semiconductor nanoparticles. The described procedure enables us to gain directly aqueous suspensions of quantum dot doped polymer microspheres which can be used to prepare high quality artificial opals by self-assembly procedures. The properties of these quantum dot doped polymer microspheres and the artificial opals made thereof will be discussed.

Emmanuel G. Reynaud, Pavel Tomancák
Meeting report: First light sheet based fluorescence microscopy workshop.
Biotechnol J, 5(8) 798-804 (2010)

Manonmani Arunachalam, Karthik Jayasurya, Pavel Tomancák, Uwe Ohler
An alignment-free method to identify candidate orthologous enhancers in multiple Drosophila genomes.
Bioinformatics, 26(17) 2109-2115 (2010)
MOTIVATION: Evolutionarily conserved non-coding genomic sequences represent a potentially rich source for the discovery of gene regulatory region such as transcriptional enhancers. However, detecting orthologous enhancers using alignment-based methods in higher eukaryotic genomes is particularly challenging, as regulatory regions can undergo considerable sequence changes while maintaining their functionality. RESULTS: We have developed an alignment-free method which identifies conserved enhancers in multiple diverged species. Our method is based on similarity metrics between two sequences based on the co-occurrence of sequence patterns regardless of their order and orientation, thus tolerating sequence changes observed in non-coding evolution. We show that our method is highly successful in detecting orthologous enhancers in distantly related species without requiring additional information such as knowledge about transcription factors involved, or predicted binding sites. By estimating the significance of similarity scores, we are able to discriminate experimentally validated functional enhancers from seemingly equally conserved candidates without function. We demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach on a wide range of enhancers in Drosophila, and also present encouraging results to detect conserved functional regions across large evolutionary distances. Our work provides encouraging steps on the way to ab initio unbiased enhancer prediction to complement ongoing experimental efforts. AVAILABILITY: The software, data and the results used in this paper are available at http://www.genome.duke.edu/labs/ohler/research/transcription/fly_enhancer/ CONTACT: uwe.ohler@duke.edu, tomancak@mpi-cbg.de.

Stephan Saalfeld, Albert Cardona, Volker Hartenstein, Pavel Tomancák
As-rigid-as-possible mosaicking and serial section registration of large ssTEM datasets
Bioinformatics, 26(12) 57-63 (2010)
Motivation: Tiled serial section Transmission Electron Microscopy (ssTEM) is increasingly used to describe high-resolution anatomy of large biological specimens. In particular in neurobiology, TEM is indispensable for analysis of synaptic connectivity in the brain. Registration of ssTEM image mosaics has to recover the 3D continuity and geometrical properties of the specimen in presence of various distortions that are applied to the tissue during sectioning, staining and imaging. These include staining artifacts, mechanical deformation, missing sections and the fact that structures may appear dissimilar in consecutive sections. Results: We developed a fully automatic, non-rigid but as-rigid-as-possible registration method for large tiled serial section microscopy stacks. We use the Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) to identify corresponding landmarks within and across sections and globally optimize the pose of all tiles in terms of least square displacement of these landmark correspondences. We evaluate the precision of the approach using an artificially generated dataset designed to mimic the properties of TEM data. We demonstrate the performance of our method by registering an ssTEM dataset of the first instar larval brain of Drosophila melanogaster consisting of 6885 images. Availability: This method is implemented as part of the open source software TrakEM2 (http://www.ini.uzh.ch/acardona/trakem2.html) and distributed through the Fiji project (http://pacific.mpi-cbg.de).

Albert Cardona, Stephan Saalfeld, Ignacio Arganda, Wayne Pereanu, Johannes Schindelin, Volker Hartenstein
Identifying neuronal lineages of Drosophila by sequence analysis of axon tracts.
J Neurosci, 30(22) 7538-7553 (2010)
The Drosophila brain is formed by an invariant set of lineages, each of which is derived from a unique neural stem cell (neuroblast) and forms a genetic and structural unit of the brain. The task of reconstructing brain circuitry at the level of individual neurons can be made significantly easier by assigning neurons to their respective lineages. In this article we address the automation of neuron and lineage identification. We focused on the Drosophila brain lineages at the larval stage when they form easily recognizable secondary axon tracts (SATs) that were previously partially characterized. We now generated an annotated digital database containing all lineage tracts reconstructed from five registered wild-type brains, at higher resolution and including some that were previously not characterized. We developed a method for SAT structural comparisons based on a dynamic programming approach akin to nucleotide sequence alignment and a machine learning classifier trained on the annotated database of reference SATs. We quantified the stereotypy of SATs by measuring the residual variability of aligned wild-type SATs. Next, we used our method for the identification of SATs within wild-type larval brains, and found it highly accurate (93-99%). The method proved highly robust for the identification of lineages in mutant brains and in brains that differed in developmental time or labeling. We describe for the first time an algorithm that quantifies neuronal projection stereotypy in the Drosophila brain and use the algorithm for automatic neuron and lineage recognition.

Stephan Preibisch✳︎, Stephan Saalfeld✳︎, Johannes Schindelin, Pavel Tomancák
Software for bead-based registration of selective plane illumination microscopy data
Nat Methods, 7(6) 418-419 (2010)

Pavel Tomancák, Uwe Ohler
Mapping the complexity of transcription control in higher eukaryotes
Genome Biol, 11(4) Art. No. 115 (2010)
Open Access PDF DOI
Recent genomic analyses suggest the importance of combinatorial regulation by broadly expressed transcription factors rather than expression domains characterized by highly specific factors.

Thomas Walter, David W Shattuck, Richard Baldock, Mark E Bastin, Anne E Carpenter, Suzanna Duce, Jan Ellenberg, Adam Fraser, Nicholas Hamilton, Steve Pieper, Mark A Ragan, Jurgen E Schneider, Pavel Tomancák, Jean-Karim Hériché
Visualization of image data from cells to organisms
Nat Methods, 7(3s) 26-41 (2010)
Advances in imaging techniques and high-throughput technologies are providing scientists with unprecedented possibilities to visualize internal structures of cells, organs and organisms and to collect systematic image data characterizing genes and proteins on a large scale. To make the best use of these increasingly complex and large image data resources, the scientific community must be provided with methods to query, analyze and crosslink these resources to give an intuitive visual representation of the data. This review gives an overview of existing methods and tools for this purpose and highlights some of their limitations and challenges.

Michael Weber
Interspecimen registration of long-term, time-lapse selective plane illumination microscopy recordings of Drosophila melanogaster embryogenesis
Diploma Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2010)
The investigation of gene expression patterns plays a key role in Drosophila developmental research. Previous techniques such as in situ hybridization and microarray time course analysis are nowadays supplemented by advanced 4d imaging techniques, offering unprecedented possibilities to visualize organisms and allow the collection of systematic image data characterizing gene expression on a large scale. A prominent representative of those techniques is Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM), which combines the advantages of fluorescence stereomicroscopy and high-resolution imaging of optical sections in a unique in vivo imaging system. This work utilizes SPIM to collect in toto time-lapse datasets of the formation of prominent gene expression patterns during D. melanogaster embryogenesis. Several parameters of acquisition and sample preparation were optimized to improve the microscope performance as well as the viability of the imaged flies. An approach for the registration of individual SPIM datasets in space and time based on Pearson’s correlation will be presented. This interspecimen registration allows to align time-lapse data in a fast and reliable way. The approach may be used to investigate gene regulatory networks which facilitate the maturation of a single cell to a complex organism.

Christoph C. H. Langer✳︎, Radoslaw K Ejsmont✳︎, Cornelia Schönbauer✳︎, Frank Schnorrer, Pavel Tomancák
In Vivo RNAi Rescue in Drosophila melanogaster with Genomic Transgenes from Drosophila pseudoobscura
PLoS ONE, 5(1) Art. No. e8928 (2010)
Open Access PDF DOI
Background: Systematic, large-scale RNA interference (RNAi) approaches are very valuable to systematically investigate biological processes in cell culture or in tissues of organisms such as Drosophila. A notorious pitfall of all RNAi technologies are potential false positives caused by unspecific knock-down of genes other

Stephan Preibisch#, Pavel Tomancák, Stephan Saalfeld#
Into ImgLib - Generic Image Processing in Java
In: Proceedings of ImageJ User and Developer Conference (2010), Amsterdam, Netherlands, Academic Press (2010), 1-1
The purpose of ImgLib, a Generic Java Image Processing Library, is to provide an abstract framework enabling Java developers to design and implement data processing algorithms without having to consider dimensionality, type of data (e. g. byte, float, complex float), or strategies for data access (e. g. linear arrays, cells, paged cells). This kind of programming has significant advantages over the classical way. An algorithm written once for a certain class of Type will potentially run on any compatible Type, even if it does not exist yet. Same applies for data access strategies and the number of dimensions. We achieve this abstraction by accessing data through Iterators and Type interfaces. Iterators guarantee efficient traversal through pixels depending on whether random coordinate access is required or just all pixels have to be visited once, whether real or integer coordinates are accessed, whether coordinates outside of image boundaries are accessed or not. Type interfaces define the supported operators on pixel values (like basic algebra) and hide the underlying basic type from algorithm implementation.

Karolina Jastrzebowska
Evolution of gene expression regulation during embryonic development of Drosophila species
Ph.D. Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2010)

Albert Cardona, Stephan Saalfeld, Pavel Tomancák, Volker Hartenstein
Drosophila Brain Development: Closing the Gap between a Macroarchitectural and Microarchitectural Approach.
Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol, 74 235-248 (2009)
Neurobiologists address neural structure, development, and function at the level of "macrocircuits" (how different brain compartments are interconnected; what overall pattern of activity they produce) and at the level of "microcircuits" (how connectivity and physiology of individual neurons and their processes within a compartment determine the functional output of this compartment). Work in our lab aims at reconstructing the developing Drosophila brain at both levels. Macrocircuits can be approached conveniently by reconstructing the pattern of brain lineages, which form groups of neurons whose projections form cohesive fascicles interconnecting the compartments of the larval and adult brain. The reconstruction of microcircuits requires serial section electron microscopy, due to the small size of terminal neuronal processes and their synaptic contacts. Because of the amount of labor that traditionally comes with this approach, very little is known about microcircuitry in brains across the animal kingdom. Many of the problems of serial electron microscopy reconstruction are now solvable with digital image recording and specialized software for both image acquisition and postprocessing. In this chapter, we introduce our efforts to reconstruct the small Drosophila larval brain and discuss our results in light of the published data on neuropile ultrastructure in other animal taxa.

Stephan Saalfeld, Albert Cardona, Volker Hartenstein, Pavel Tomancák
CATMAID: collaborative annotation toolkit for massive amounts of image data.
Bioinformatics, 25(15) 1984-1986 (2009)
SUMMARY: High-resolution, three-dimensional (3D) imaging of large biological specimens generates massive image datasets that are difficult to navigate, annotate and share effectively. Inspired by online mapping applications like GoogleMaps, we developed a decentralized web interface that allows seamless navigation of arbitrarily large image stacks. Our interface provides means for online, collaborative annotation of the biological image data and seamless sharing of regions of interest by bookmarking. The CATMAID interface enables synchronized navigation through multiple registered datasets even at vastly different scales such as in comparisons between optical and electron microscopy. AVAILABILITY: http://fly.mpi-cbg.de/catmaid.

Stephan Preibisch, Stephan Saalfeld, Pavel Tomancák
Globally optimal stitching of tiled 3D microscopic image acquisitions.
Bioinformatics, 25(11) 1463-1465 (2009)
MOTIVATION: Modern anatomical and developmental studies often require high-resolution imaging of large specimens in three dimensions (3D). Confocal microscopy produces high-resolution 3D images, but is limited by a relatively small field of view compared with the size of large biological specimens. Therefore, motorized stages that move the sample are used to create a tiled scan of the whole specimen. The physical coordinates provided by the microscope stage are not precise enough to allow direct reconstruction (Stitching) of the whole image from individual image stacks. RESULTS: To optimally stitch a large collection of 3D confocal images, we developed a method that, based on the Fourier Shift Theorem, computes all possible translations between pairs of 3D images, yielding the best overlap in terms of the cross-correlation measure and subsequently finds the globally optimal configuration of the whole group of 3D images. This method avoids the propagation of errors by consecutive registration steps. Additionally, to compensate the brightness differences between tiles, we apply a smooth, non-linear intensity transition between the overlapping images. Our stitching approach is fast, works on 2D and 3D images, and for small image sets does not require prior knowledge about the tile configuration. AVAILABILITY: The implementation of this method is available as an ImageJ plugin distributed as a part of the Fiji project (Fiji is just ImageJ: http://pacific.mpi-cbg.de/).

Radoslaw K Ejsmont, Mihail Sarov, Sylke Winkler, Kamil A Lipinski, Pavel Tomancák
A toolkit for high-throughput, cross-species gene engineering in Drosophila.
Nat Methods, 6(6) 435-437 (2009)
We generated two complementary genomic fosmid libraries for Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila pseudoobscura that permit seamless modification of large genomic clones by high-throughput recombineering and direct transgenesis. The fosmid transgenes recapitulated endogenous gene expression patterns. These libraries, in combination with recombineering technology, will be useful to rescue mutant phenotypes, allow imaging of gene products in living flies and enable systematic analysis and manipulation of gene activity across species.

Elizabeth Rach, Hsiang-Yu Yuan, William H Majoros, Pavel Tomancák, Uwe Ohler
Motif composition, conservation and condition-specificity of single and alternative transcription start sites in the Drosophila genome.
Genome Biol, 10(7) Art. No. R73 (2009)
Open Access PDF DOI
BACKGROUND: Transcription initiation is a key component in the regulation of gene expression. mRNA 5' full-length sequencing techniques have enhanced our understanding of mammalian transcription start sites (TSSs), revealing different initiation patterns on a genomic scale. RESULTS: To identify TSSs in Drosophila melanogaster, we applied a hierarchical clustering strategy on available 5' expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and identified a high quality set of 5,665 TSSs for approximately 4,000 genes. We distinguished two initiation patterns: 'peaked' TSSs, and 'broad' TSS cluster groups. Peaked promoters were found to contain location-specific sequence elements; conversely, broad promoters were associated with non-location-specific elements. In alignments across other Drosophila genomes, conservation levels of sequence elements exceeded 90% within the melanogaster subgroup, but dropped considerably for distal species. Elements in broad promoters had lower levels of conservation than those in peaked promoters. When characterizing the distributions of ESTs, 64% of TSSs showed distinct associations to one out of eight different spatiotemporal conditions. Available whole-genome tiling array time series data revealed different temporal patterns of embryonic activity across the majority of genes with distinct alternative promoters. Many genes with maternally inherited transcripts were found to have alternative promoters utilized later in development. Core promoters of maternally inherited transcripts showed differences in motif composition compared to zygotically active promoters. CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides a comprehensive map of Drosophila TSSs and the conditions under which they are utilized. Distinct differences in motif associations with initiation pattern and spatiotemporal utilization illustrate the complex regulatory code of transcription initiation.

Manonmani Arunachalam
Computational discovery of Cis-regulatory elements in multiple Drosophila species
Ph.D. Thesis,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany (2009)

Stephan Preibisch, Stephan Saalfeld, Torsten Rohlfing, Pavel Tomancák
Bead-based mosaicing of single plane illumination microscopy images using geometric local descriptor matching
In: Medical imaging 2009 : image processing : 8 - 10 Februar 2009 (2009) Ch. 7259(Eds.) Josien P. W. Pluim Proceedings of SPIE ; 7259, Bellingham, USA, SPIE (2009), 1-10

Eric Lécuyer, Pavel Tomancák
Mapping the gene expression universe.
Curr Opin Genet Dev, 18(6) 506-512 (2008)
Methods to globally survey gene expression provide valuable insights into gene function during development. In particular, comprehensive in situ hybridization studies have demonstrated that gene expression patterns are extraordinarily diverse and new imaging techniques have been introduced to capture these patterns with higher resolution at the tissue, cellular, and subcellular levels. The analysis of massive image databases can be greatly facilitated by computer vision techniques once annotated image sets reach the crucial mass sufficient to train the computer in pattern recognition. Ultimately, genome-wide atlases of gene expression during development will record gene activity in living animals with at least cellular resolution and in the context of morphogenetic events. These emerging datasets will lead to great advances in the field of comparative genomics and revolutionize our ability to decipher and model developmental processes for a variety of organisms.

Stephan Preibisch, Radoslaw K Ejsmont, Torsten Rohlfing, Pavel Tomancák
Towards digital representation of Drosophila embryogenesis
In: 2008 IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging : from Nano to Macro : [ISBI '08]; Paris, France, 14-17 May 2008 (2008), Piscataway, USA, IEEE Service Center (2008), 324-327

Carlos Quijano, Pavel Tomancák, Jesus Lopez-Marti, Mikita Suyama, Peer Bork, Marco Milan, David Torrents, Miguel Manzanares
Selective maintenance of Drosophila tandemly arranged duplicated genes during evolution.
Genome Biol, 9(12) 176-176 (2008)
Open Access PDF DOI
BACKGROUND: The physical organization and chromosomal localization of genes within genomes is known to play an important role in their function. Most genes arise by duplication and move along the genome by random shuffling of DNA segments. Higher order structuring of the genome occurs in eukaryotes, where groups of physically linked genes are co-expressed. However, the contribution of gene duplication to gene order has not been analyzed in detail, as it is believed that co-expression due to recent duplicates would obscure other domains of co-expression. RESULTS: We have catalogued ordered duplicated genes in Drosophila melanogaster, and found that one in five of all genes is organized as tandem arrays. Furthermore, among arrays that have been spatially conserved over longer periods than would be expected on the basis of random shuffling, a disproportionate number contain genes encoding developmental regulators. Using in situ gene expression data for more than half of the Drosophila genome, we find that genes in these conserved clusters are co-expressed to a much higher extent than other duplicated genes. CONCLUSIONS: These results reveal the existence of functional constraints in insects that retain copies of genes encoding developmental and regulatory proteins as neighbors, allowing their co-expression. This co-expression may be the result of shared cis-regulatory elements or a shared need for a specific chromatin structure. Our results highlight the association between genome architecture and the gene regulatory networks involved in the construction of the body plan.

Stephan Preibisch, Torsten Rohlfing, Michael P. Hasak, Pavel Tomancák
Mosaicing of Single Plane Illumination Microscopy Images Using Groupwise Registration and Fast Content-Based Image Fusion
In: Medical imaging 2008 - image processing : 17-19 February 2008, San Diego, California, USA (2008)(Eds.) Joseph M. Reinhardt Proceedings of SPIE ; 6914, Bellingham, USA, SPIE (2008), 1-8
Single Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM; Huisken et al., Nature 305(5686):1007–1009, 2004) is an emerging microscopic technique that enables live imaging of large biological specimens in their entirety. By imaging the living biological sample from multiple angles SPIM has the potential to achieve isotropic resolution throughout even relatively large biological specimens. For every angle, however, only a relatively shallow section of the specimen is imaged with high resolution, whereas deeper regions appear increasingly blurred. In order to produce a single, uniformly high resolution image, we propose here an image mosaicing algorithm that combines state of the art groupwise image registration for alignment with content-based image fusion to prevent degrading of the fused image due to regional blurring of the input images. For the registration stage, we introduce an application-specific groupwise transformation model that incorporates per-image as well as groupwise transformation parameters. We also propose a new fusion algorithm based on Gaussian filters, which is substantially faster than fusion based on local image entropy. We demonstrate the performance of our mosaicing method on data acquired from living embryos of the fruit fly, Drosophila, using four and eight angle acquisitions.

Stephan Preibisch, Stephan Saalfeld, Pavel Tomancák
Fast stitching of large 3d biological datasets
In: Proceedings of the ImageJ User and Developer Conference 2008 : [6th & 7th November 2008, Luxembourg] (2008), Luxembourg, Centre de recherche public Henri Tudor (2008), 134-139
In order to study anatomy of organisms with high-resolution there is an increasing demand to image large specimen in three dimensions (3D). Confocal microscopy is able to produce high-resolution 3D images, but these are limited by relatively small field of view compared to the size of large biological specimens. To overcome this drawback, motorized stages moving the sample are used to create a tiled scan of the whole specimen. The physical coordinates provided by the microscope stage are not precise enough to allow reconstruction (”Stitching”) of the whole image from individual image stacks. We developed an algorithm, as well as an ImageJ plug-in, based on the Fourier Shift Theorem that computes all possible translations (x, y, z) between two 3D images at once, yielding the best overlap in terms of the cross correlation measure. Apart from the obvious gain in computation time it has the advantage that it cannot be trapped in local minima as it simply computes all possible solutions. Computing the overlap between two adjacent image stacks is fast (12 seconds for two 512x512x89 images on a Intel® Core2Duo with 2.2GHz) making it suitable for real time use, i.e. computing the output image during acquisition of the individual image stacks. To compensate the possible shading- and brightness differences we apply a smooth linear intensity transition between the overlapping stacks. Additionally we extended the approach to generic 3D registration using gradient based rotation detection in combination with the phase correlation method. We demonstrate the performance of our 3D stitching plug-in on several tiled confocal images and show an example of its application for 3D registration.

Stephan Saalfeld, Pavel Tomancák
Automatic landmark correspondence detection for ImageJ
In: Proceedings of the ImageJ User and Developer Conference 2008 : [6th & 7th November 2008, Luxembourg] (2008), Luxembourg, Centre de recherche public Henri Tudor (2008), 128-133
Landmark correspondences can be used for various tasks in image processing such as image alignment, reconstruction of panoramic photographs, object recognition and simultaneous localization and mapping for mobile robots. The computer vision community knows several techniques for extracting and pairwise associating such landmarks using distinctive invariant local image features. Two very successful methods are the Sale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT)1 and Multi-Scale Oriented Patches (MOPS).2 We implemented these methods in the Java programming language3 for seamless use in ImageJ.4 We use it for fully automatic registration of gigantic serial section Transmission Electron Microscopy mosaics. Using automatically detected landmark correspondences, the registration of large image mosaics simpli es to globally minimizing the displacement of corresponding points. We present here an introduction to automatic landmark correspondence detection and demonstrate our implementation for ImageJ. We demonstrate the application of the plug-in on generic and biological image data.

Eric Lécuyer, Hiroyuki Yoshida, Neela Parthasarathy, Christina Alm, Tomas Babak, Tanja Cerovina, Timothy R Hughes, Pavel Tomancák, Henry M Krause
Global analysis of mRNA localization reveals a prominent role in organizing cellular architecture and function.
Cell, 131(1) 174-187 (2007)
Although subcellular mRNA trafficking has been demonstrated as a mechanism to control protein distribution, it is generally believed that most protein localization occurs subsequent to translation. To address this point, we developed and employed a high-resolution fluorescent in situ hybridization procedure to comprehensively evaluate mRNA localization dynamics during early Drosophila embryogenesis. Surprisingly, of the 3370 genes analyzed, 71% of those expressed encode subcellularly localized mRNAs. Dozens of new and striking localization patterns were observed, implying an equivalent variety of localization mechanisms. Tight correlations between mRNA distribution and subsequent protein localization and function, indicate major roles for mRNA localization in nucleating localized cellular machineries. A searchable web resource documenting mRNA expression and localization dynamics has been established and will serve as an invaluable tool for dissecting localization mechanisms and for predicting gene functions and interactions.

Tiago R Magalhães, Jessica Palmer, Pavel Tomancák, Katherine S Pollard
Transcriptional control in embryonic Drosophila midline guidance assessed through a whole genome approach.
BMC neuroscience, 8 Art. No. 59 (2007)
Open Access PDF DOI
BACKGROUND: During the development of the Drosophila central nervous system the process of midline crossing is orchestrated by a number of guidance receptors and ligands. Many key axon guidance molecules have been identified in both invertebrates and vertebrates, but the transcriptional regulation of growth cone guidance remains largely unknown. It is established that translational regulation plays a role in midline crossing, and there are indications that transcriptional regulation is also involved. To investigate this issue, we conducted a genome-wide study of transcription in Drosophila embryos using wild type and a number of well-characterized Drosophila guidance mutants and transgenics. We also analyzed a previously published microarray time course of Drosophila embryonic development with an axon guidance focus. RESULTS: Using hopach, a novel clustering method which is well suited to microarray data analysis, we identified groups of genes with similar expression patterns across guidance mutants and transgenics. We then systematically characterized the resulting clusters with respect to their relevance to axon guidance using two complementary controlled vocabularies: the Gene Ontology (GO) and anatomical annotations of the Atlas of Pattern of Gene Expression (APoGE) in situ hybridization database. The analysis indicates that regulation of gene expression does play a role in the process of axon guidance in Drosophila. We also find a strong link between axon guidance and hemocyte migration, a result that agrees with mounting evidence that axon guidance molecules are co-opted in vertebrate vascularization. Cell cyclin activity in the context of axon guidance is also suggested from our array data. RNA and protein expression patterns of cell cyclins in axon guidance mutants and transgenics support this possible link. CONCLUSION: This study provides important insights into the regulation of axon guidance in vivo.

Pavel Tomancák, Benjamin P Berman, Amy Beaton, Richard Weiszmann, Elaine Kwan, Volker Hartenstein, Susan E Celniker, Gerald M Rubin
Global analysis of patterns of gene expression during Drosophila embryogenesis.
Genome Biol, 8(7) 145-145 (2007)
Open Access PDF DOI
BACKGROUND: Cell and tissue specific gene expression is a defining feature of embryonic development in multi-cellular organisms. However, the range of gene expression patterns, the extent of the correlation of expression with function, and the classes of genes whose spatial expression are tightly regulated have been unclear due to the lack of an unbiased, genome-wide survey of gene expression patterns. RESULTS: We determined and documented embryonic expression patterns for 6,003 (44%) of the 13,659 protein-coding genes identified in the Drosophila melanogaster genome with over 70,000 images and controlled vocabulary annotations. Individual expression patterns are extraordinarily diverse, but by supplementing qualitative in situ hybridization data with quantitative microarray time-course data using a hybrid clustering strategy, we identify groups of genes with similar expression. Of 4,496 genes with detectable expression in the embryo, 2,549 (57%) fall into 10 clusters representing broad expression patterns. The remaining 1,947 (43%) genes fall into 29 clusters representing restricted expression, 20% patterned as early as blastoderm, with the majority restricted to differentiated cell types, such as epithelia, nervous system, or muscle. We investigate the relationship between expression clusters and known molecular and cellular-physiological functions. CONCLUSION: Nearly 60% of the genes with detectable expression exhibit broad patterns reflecting quantitative rather than qualitative differences between tissues. The other 40% show tissue-restricted expression; the expression patterns of over 1,500 of these genes are documented here for the first time. Within each of these categories, we identified clusters of genes associated with particular cellular and developmental functions.

A. Aziz Aboobaker, Pavel Tomancák, Nipam Patel, Gerald M Rubin, Eric C. Lai
Drosophila microRNAs exhibit diverse spatial expression patterns during embryonic development.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A., 102(50) 18017-18022 (2005)
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are an extensive class of regulatory RNA whose specific functions in animals are generally unknown. Although computational methods have identified many potential targets of miRNAs, elucidating the spatial expression patterns of miRNAs is necessary to identify the sites of miRNA action. Here, we report the spatial patterns of miRNA transcription during Drosophila embryonic development, as revealed by in situ hybridization to nascent miRNA transcripts. We detect expression of 15 "stand-alone" miRNA loci and 9 intronic miRNA loci, which collectively represent 38 miRNA genes. We observe great variety in the spatial patterns of miRNA transcription, including preblastoderm stripes, in aspects of the central and peripheral nervous systems, and in cellular subsets of the mesoderm and endoderm. We also describe an intronic miRNA (miR-7) whose expression pattern is distinct from that of its host mRNA (bancal), which demonstrates that intronic miRNAs can be subject to independent cis-regulatory control. Intriguingly, the expression patterns of several fly miRNAs are analogous to those of their vertebrate counterparts, suggesting that these miRNAs may have ancient roles in animal patterning.

Eric C. Lai✳︎, Pavel Tomancák✳︎, Robert W Williams, Gerald M Rubin
Computational identification of Drosophila microRNA genes.
Genome Biol, 4(7) 42-42 (2003)
Open Access PDF DOI
BACKGROUND: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large family of 21-22 nucleotide non-coding RNAs with presumed post-transcriptional regulatory activity. Most miRNAs were identified by direct cloning of small RNAs, an approach that favors detection of abundant miRNAs. Three observations suggested that miRNA genes might be identified using a computational approach. First, miRNAs generally derive from precursor transcripts of 70-100 nucleotides with extended stem-loop structure. Second, miRNAs are usually highly conserved between the genomes of related species. Third, miRNAs display a characteristic pattern of evolutionary divergence. RESULTS: We developed an informatic procedure called 'miRseeker', which analyzed the completed euchromatic sequences of Drosophila melanogaster and D. pseudoobscura for conserved sequences that adopt an extended stem-loop structure and display a pattern of nucleotide divergence characteristic of known miRNAs. The sensitivity of this computational procedure was demonstrated by the presence of 75% (18/24) of previously identified Drosophila miRNAs within the top 124 candidates. In total, we identified 48 novel miRNA candidates that were strongly conserved in more distant insect, nematode, or vertebrate genomes. We verified expression for a total of 24 novel miRNA genes, including 20 of 27 candidates conserved in a third species and 4 of 11 high-scoring, Drosophila-specific candidates. Our analyses lead us to estimate that drosophilid genomes contain around 110 miRNA genes. CONCLUSIONS: Our computational strategy succeeded in identifying bona fide miRNA genes and suggests that miRNAs constitute nearly 1% of predicted protein-coding genes in Drosophila, a percentage similar to the percentage of miRNAs recently attributed to other metazoan genomes.

Pavel Tomancák, Amy Beaton, Richard Weiszmann, Elaine Kwan, ShengQiang Shu, Suzanna E Lewis, Stephen Richards, Michael Ashburner, Volker Hartenstein, Susan E Celniker, Gerald M Rubin
Systematic determination of patterns of gene expression during Drosophila embryogenesis.
Genome Biol, 3(12) 88-88 (2002)
Open Access PDF
BACKGROUND: Cell-fate specification and tissue differentiation during development are largely achieved by the regulation of gene transcription. RESULTS: As a first step to creating a comprehensive atlas of gene-expression patterns during Drosophila embryogenesis, we examined 2,179 genes by in situ hybridization to fixed Drosophila embryos. Of the genes assayed, 63.7% displayed dynamic expression patterns that were documented with 25,690 digital photomicrographs of individual embryos. The photomicrographs were annotated using controlled vocabularies for anatomical structures that are organized into a developmental hierarchy. We also generated a detailed time course of gene expression during embryogenesis using microarrays to provide an independent corroboration of the in situ hybridization results. All image, annotation and microarray data are stored in publicly available database. We found that the RNA transcripts of about 1% of genes show clear subcellular localization. Nearly all the annotated expression patterns are distinct. We present an approach for organizing the data by hierarchical clustering of annotation terms that allows us to group tissues that express similar sets of genes as well as genes displaying similar expression patterns. CONCLUSIONS: Analyzing gene-expression patterns by in situ hybridization to whole-mount embryos provides an extremely rich dataset that can be used to identify genes involved in developmental processes that have been missed by traditional genetic analysis. Systematic analysis of rigorously annotated patterns of gene expression will complement and extend the types of analyses carried out using expression microarrays.

Benjamin P Berman, Pavel Tomancák, Yutaka Nibu, Barret D Pfeiffer, Susan E Celniker, Michael Levine, Gerald M Rubin, Michael B Eisen
Exploiting transcription factor binding site clustering to identify cis-regulatory modules involved in pattern formation in the Drosophila genome.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A., 99(2) 757-762 (2002)
A major challenge in interpreting genome sequences is understanding how the genome encodes the information that specifies when and where a gene will be expressed. The first step in this process is the identification of regions of the genome that contain regulatory information. In higher eukaryotes, this cis-regulatory information is organized into modular units [cis-regulatory modules (CRMs)] of a few hundred base pairs. A common feature of these cis-regulatory modules is the presence of multiple binding sites for multiple transcription factors. Here, we evaluate the extent to which the tendency for transcription factor binding sites to be clustered can be used as the basis for the computational identification of cis-regulatory modules. By using published DNA binding specificity data for five transcription factors active in the early Drosophila embryo, we identified genomic regions containing unusually high concentrations of predicted binding sites for these factors. A significant fraction of these binding site clusters overlap known CRMs that are regulated by these factors. In addition, many of the remaining clusters are adjacent to genes expressed in a pattern characteristic of genes regulated by these factors. We tested one of the newly identified clusters, mapping upstream of the gap gene giant (gt), and show that it acts as an enhancer that recapitulates the posterior expression pattern of gt.

Pavel Tomancák, Fabio Piano, Veit Riechmann, Kristin C. Gunsalus, Kenneth J. Kemphues, Anne Ephrussi
A Drosophila melanogaster homologue of Caenorhabditis elegans par-1 acts at an early step in embryonic-axis formation.
Nat Cell Biol, 2(7) 458-460 (2000)

Martina Muckenthaler, Niki Gunkel, Dmitrij Frishman, Anna Cyrklaff, Pavel Tomancák, Matthias W. Hentze
Iron-regulatory protein-1 (IRP-1) is highly conserved in two invertebrate species--characterization of IRP-1 homologues in Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans.
Eur J Biochem, 254(2) 230-237 (1998)
Iron-regulatory protein-1 (IRP-1) plays a dual role as a regulatory RNA-binding protein and as a cytoplasmic aconitase. When bound to iron-responsive elements (IRE), IRP-1 post-transcriptionally regulates the expression of mRNAs involved in iron metabolism. IRP have been cloned from several vertebrate species. Using a degenerate-primer PCR strategy and the screening of data bases, we now identify the homologues of IRP-1 in two invertebrate species, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. Comparative sequence analysis shows that these invertebrate IRP are closely related to vertebrate IRP, and that the amino acid residues that have been implicated in aconitase function are particularly highly conserved, suggesting that invertebrate IRP may function as cytoplasmic aconitases. Antibodies raised against recombinant human IRP-1 immunoprecipitate the Drosophila homologue expressed from the cloned cDNA. In contrast to vertebrates, two IRP-1 homologues (Drosophila IRP-1A and Drosophila IRP-1B), displaying 86% identity to each other, are expressed in D. melanogaster. Both of these homologues are distinct from vertebrate IRP-2. In contrast to the mammalian system where the two IRP (IRP-1 and IRP-2) are differentially expressed, Drosophila IRP-1A and Drosophila IRP-1B are not preferentially expressed in specific organs. The localization of Drosophila IRP-1A to position 94C1-8 and of Drosophila IRP-1B to position 86B3-6 on the right arm of chromosome 3 and the availability of an IRP-1 cDNA from C. elegans will facilitate a genetic analysis of the IRE/IRP system, thus opening a new avenue to explore this regulatory network.

Pavel Tomancák✳︎, Antoine Guichet✳︎, Peter Zavorszky, Anne Ephrussi
Oocyte polarity depends on regulation of gurken by Vasa.
Development, 125(9) 1723-1732 (1998)
Vasa, a DEAD box mRNA helicase similar to eIF4A, is involved in pole plasm assembly in the Drosophila oocyte and appears to regulate translation of oskar and nanos mRNAs. However, several vasa alleles exhibit a wide range of early oogenesis phenotypes. Here we report a detailed analysis of Vasa function during early oogenesis using novel as well as previously identified hypomorphic vasa alleles. We find that vasa is required for the establishment of both anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral polarity of the oocyte. The polarity defects of vasa mutants appear to be caused by a reduction in the amount of Gurken protein at stages of oogenesis critical for the establishment of polarity. Vasa is required for translation of gurken mRNA during early oogenesis and for achieving wild-type levels of gurken mRNA expression later in oogenesis. A variety of early oogenesis phenotypes observed in vasa ovaries, which cannot be attributed to the defect in gurken expression, suggest that vasa also affects expression of other mRNAs.