Transcripts of the serpent gene first appear in the cellular blastoderm at the anterior and posterior midgut primordia, the primordia of the cephalic mesoderm, and the vitellophages located in the yolk in the center of the embryo. Vitellophages are the cells remaining in the center of the fertilized egg after most of the nuclei migrate to the egg cortex prior to cellularization (Abel, 1993). serpent expression is found in the endoderm (Abel, 1993).

Expression is seen in a patch of cells in the anterior portion of the mesodermal primordium. These cells invaginate with the ventral furrow anterior to the cephalic furrow and become located laterally to the stomodeum which in part also expresses srp. Slightly later these cells differentiate into prohemocytes which migrate into the head. Subsequently, these cells become distributed throughout the body and differentiate as mature hemocytes, at which point srp expression is downregulated. It is proposed that the mesodermal patch of srp constitutes the hemocyte primordium at blastoderm stage (Rehorn, 1997).

As gastrulation begins [Image], serpent transcripts are transiently observed in the dorsal-most region of the embryo, the area that gives rise to the amnioserosa. The observed pattern of five stripes resembles the pattern of zerknüllt expression. During germ band extension, the only expression seen is in the cephalic mesoderm. Before germ band retraction, serpent-expressing mesodermal cells appear in segmentally repeated structures reminiscent of the mesodermal expression of nautilus. They form clusters of unfused, myogenic cells.

After germ band shortening is completed, clusters of cells with serpent transcripts expand and coalesce into a continuous sheet of cells along the lateral wall of the embryo. This sheet of cells is the maturing fat body (Abel, 1993). After germ band retraction srp expression becomes very weak in hemocytes which have already dispersed over the interstitial space. srp is now also in the developing lymph gland and the ring gland (Rehorn, 1997).

The serpent gene, also known as ABF, codes for a GATA-like transcription factor and is involved in the transcription activation of Adh in the larval fat body (adipose tissue). Srp protein is detected in the progenitor fat-body cells and is present in the developing fat-body cells and in the mature embryonic fat body. Serpent protein is first detected in the primordium of the cephalic mesoderm. Hemocytes arise from the cephalic mesoderm. Serpent proteins are also found in the anterior and posterior midgut primordium at the beginning of stage 5. Srp continues to be expressed in the midgut primordia until mid-stage 12 and then declines. Srp is also detected in vitellophages starting at stage 5 and continues to be detected in these cells until stage 12. At the beginning of stage 6, SRP transcripts are detected in the dorsal region of the embryo that gives rise to the amnioserosa. Serpent transcripts are expressed early in nine bilateral clusters of cells. By stage 12, the completion of germ-band extension, SRP transcripts are detected in two bilateral clusters that are the precursors of the fat bodies. The other clusters are within the ectoderm in cells of unknown identity. Within the fat-cell lineage, srp is necessary for progression through early stages of fat-cell development and may be involved in the transactivation of genes necessary for fat-cell differentiation (Sam, 1996)

The two origins of hemocytes in Drosophila

As in many other organisms, the blood of Drosophila consists of several types of hemocytes, which originate from the mesoderm. By lineage analyses of transplanted cells, two separate anlagen have been defined that give rise to different populations of hemocytes: embryonic hemocytes and lymph gland hemocytes. In both cases, the determination of hemocytes depends on serpent. The anlage of the embryonic hemocytes is restricted to a region within the head mesoderm between 70% and 80% egg length. In contrast to all other mesodermal cells, the cells of this anlage are already determined as hemocytes at the blastoderm stage. Unexpectedly, these hemocytes do not degenerate during late larval stages, but have the capacity to persist through metamorphosis and are still detectable in the adult fly. A second anlage, which gives rise to additional hemocytes at the onset of metamorphosis, is located within the thoracic mesoderm at 50% to 53% egg length. After transplantation within this region, clones were detected in the larval lymph glands. Labeled hemocytes are released by the lymph glands not before the late third larval instar. The anlage of these lymph gland-derived hemocytes is not determined at the blastoderm stage, as indicated by the overlap of clones with other tissues. These analyses reveal that the hemocytes of pupae and adult flies consist of a mixture of embryonic hemocytes and lymph gland-derived hemocytes, originating from two distinct anlagen that are determined at different stages of development (Holz, 2003).

The origin of the embryonic hemocytes (EH) can be traced back to the head mesoderm of late stage 11 embryos by morphological criteria. Owing to the fact that srp is expressed in a narrow stripe within the cephalic mesoderm at the blastoderm stage and that a loss of srp function leads to a complete loss of embryonic hemocytes, this domain is considered to be the primordium of the EH. By homotopic single-cell transplantations it was possible to restrict the anlage to a sharply delimitated region located at 70% to 80% EL within the mesoderm, exactly corresponding to the cephalic expression domain of srp. The fact that none of the EH clones overlapped with other tissues indicates that the hemocytes are already determined at the blastoderm stage. This was confirmed by heterotopic transplantations from the EH anlage into the abdominal mesoderm; these transplanted cells give rise to hemocytes. Since mesodermal cells transplanted into the EH anlage do not transform into embryonic hemocytes, the determining factor is not able to induce a hemocyte fate within these cells and seems to function cell-autonomously. A good candidate for such a factor is Srp. However, since srp is also expressed in many other tissues that do not give rise to hemocytes, there must be additional genes that lead to a determination of the EH at the blastoderm stage. The early determination of the EH is quite unusual, since all other mesodermal tissues analyzed to date -- including the anlage of the lymph gland-derived hemocytes -- are not restricted to a tissue-specific fate prior to the second postblastodermal mitoses. This might be a developmental adaptation of the EH, which at stage 12 are already differentiated into functional macrophages and are responsible for the removal of apoptotic cells within developing tissues (Holz, 2003).

It is commonly believed that in Drosophila during larval development the EH population is entirely replaced by hemocytes that have been released by the larval lymph glands. However, it is possible to trace hemocytes originating from the head mesoderm through all stages of development until 14-day-old adult flies. The number of hemocytes progressively rises during larval life, from less than 200 to more than 5000 per individual. Cell lineage analyses unambiguously demonstrate that this increase is due to postembryonic proliferation of the EH. The contribution of the lymph glands to the hemocyte population was determined by means of cell lineage analyses. These studies reveal that the lymph glands do not release blood cells into the hemocoel during all larval stages but exclusively at the end of the third larval instar (Holz, 2003).

With the onset of metamorphosis, additional hemocytes are released from the lymph glands. Although the lymph glands do not persist through metamorphosis, the marked hemocytes released by the labeled lymph glands are still detectable in adult flies. Hence, all hemocytes found throughout larval life originate solely from the EH anlage, whereas the pupal and imaginal blood is made up of two different populations: EH and LGH (Holz, 2003).

The two populations of hemocytes share many functional, morphological and genetic similarities. In both cases, the determination of hemocytes depends on srp, while the specification towards the distinct blood cell types is induced by the expression of lozenge (lz) glia cells missing (gcm) and the gcm homolog gcm2. Both EH and LGH differentiate into podocytes, crystal cells and plasmatocytes. Hemocytes of both populations have the capability to adopt macrophage characteristics. However, despite all similarities, the history of the two populations is quite different, since they originate from two different mesodermal regions and are determined at different developmental stages. In view of the fact that the lymph glands do not release hemocytes before the onset of metamorphosis under nonimmune conditions, all hemocytes found in the larval hemocoel represent EH (Holz, 2003).

The many similarities between EG and LGH raise the question why there are two populations at all. A massive release of hemocytes by the lymph glands is seen just at the onset of pupation. The lymph glands additionally have the capacity to differentiate and release a special type of hemocytes, the lamellocytes, under immune conditions even before the onset of metamorphosis. Thus, because under nonimmune conditions the lymph glands do not release any cells before the onset of pupation, it might be their primary role to provide a reservoir of immune defensive hemocytes. The massive apoptosis and accumulation of cell debris might be a secondary trigger to stimulate proliferation and release of the lymph gland hemocytes (Holz, 2003).

Evidence for a fruit fly hemangioblast and similarities between lymph-gland hematopoiesis in fruit fly and mammal aorta-gonadal-mesonephros mesoderm

The Drosophila lymph gland is a hematopoietic organ and, together with prospective vascular cells (cardioblasts) and excretory cells (pericardial nephrocytes), arises from the cardiogenic mesoderm. Clonal analysis provided evidence for a hemangioblast that can give rise to two daughter cells: one that differentiates into heart or aorta and another that differentiates into blood. In addition, the GATA factor gene pannier (pnr) and the homeobox gene tinman (tin), which are controlled by the convergence of Decapentaplegic (Dpp), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), Wingless (Wg) and Notch signaling, are required for the development of all cardiogenic mesoderm, including the lymph gland. An essential genetic switch differentiates between the blood or nephrocyte and vascular lineages involves the Notch pathway. Further specification occurs through specific expression of the GATA factor Serpent (Srp) in the lymph-gland primordium. These findings suggest that there is a close parallel between the molecular mechanisms functioning in the Drosophila cardiogenic mesoderm and those functioning in the mammalian aorta-gonadal-mesonephros mesoderm (Mandal, 2004).

Blood and vascular cells in the vertebrate embryo are thought to derive from oligopotent progenitor cells, called hemangioblasts, that arise in the yolk sac and in the aorta-gonadal-mesonephros (AGM) mesenchyme. A close relationship between blood and vascular progenitors is well established, but in vivo evidence that a single cell can divide to produce a blood cell and an endothelial cell is lacking in vertebrate systems. Similarly, the molecular mechanism that distinguishes between the two lineages is not well understood. To address these issues in a simple, genetically amenable system, the genetic control of hematopoiesis was analyzed in Drosophila. The results show that there are close lineage relationships between hematopoietic and vascular cells, similar to those present in the AGM of mammalian systems. Evidence is provided for conserved cassettes of transcription factors and signaling cascades that limit the pool of hemangioblastic cells and promote the blood versus vascular fate (Mandal, 2004).

In the mature Drosophila embryo, the lymph gland is formed by a paired cluster of ~20 cells flanking the aorta. The aorta and heart represent a contractile tube lined by a layer of myoepithelial vascular cells called cardioblasts. The cells flanking the aorta and heart posterior to the lymph gland are the pericardial cells, which function as excretory cells (nephrocytes). Lymph gland progenitors express the prohemocyte marker Srp and ultrastructurally resemble prohemocytes that develop at an earlier stage from the head mesoderm. Monitoring expression of the zinc-finger protein Odd-skipped (Odd) shows that the lymph gland originates from the dorsal thoracic mesoderm. Odd is expressed in segmental clusters in the dorsal mesoderm of segments T1-A6. The three thoracic Odd-positive clusters coalesce to form the lymph gland, whereas the abdominal clusters formed the pericardial nephrocytes (Mandal, 2004).

Lymph-gland progenitors, cardioblasts and pericardial cells are closely related by lineage. Labeled 'flipout' (FLP/FRT) clones were induced in embryos aged 3-4 h such that the clones contained only 2-4 cells. Of the two-cell clones, ~50% contained cardioblast and lymph-gland cells; the other clones comprised either cardioblasts or lymph-gland cells alone. Mixed clones were recovered at the late third larval stage. The finding of mixed clones indicates that the cardiogenic mesoderm of D. melanogaster contains oligopotent progenitors that, up to the final division, can give rise both to Srp-positive blood-cell progenitors that form the lymph gland and to vascular cells (Mandal, 2004).

The cardiogenic mesoderm forms part of the dorsal mesoderm, which requires the homeobox protein Tin and the GATA factor Pnr. In embryos with mutations in tin or pnr, the lymph gland was absent. Maintenance of Tin expression in the dorsal mesoderm requires the activity of at least two signaling pathways regulated by Dpp (the Drosophila homolog of transforming growth factor-ß) and Heartless (Htl; one of the D. melanogaster homologs of the FGF receptor); the dependence of cardioblast and pericardial nephrocyte development on these signaling pathways has been documented. Lymph-gland progenitors did not develop in loss-of-function dpp and htl mutants (Mandal, 2004).

Between 6 h and 8 h of development, the dorsal mesoderm splits into the cardiogenic mesoderm and the visceral mesoderm. The cardiogenic mesoderm is regulated positively by Wg and negatively by Notch. Lack of Wg signaling results in the absence of all cardiogenic lineages including lymph gland. Notch signaling has the opposite effect and restricts cardiogenic mesodermal fate. Notch is active in the dorsal mesoderm from 6 h to 10 h of development. Eliminating Notch during the first half of this interval by raising embryos homozygous with respect to the temperature-sensitive allele Nts1 at the restrictive temperature resulted in substantially more cardioblasts, pericardial cells and lymph-gland progenitors (Mandal, 2004).

Lymph-gland progenitors, cardioblasts and pericardial nephrocytes are specified in the cardiogenic mesoderm around the phase of germband retraction 8-10 h after fertilization. At this stage, Tin, which was initially expressed in the whole cardiogenic mesoderm, becomes restricted to a narrow medial compartment containing the cardioblasts. Pnr follows the same restriction. Cells located at a more lateral level in the cardiogenic mesoderm give rise to lymph-gland progenitors (in the thoracic domain) and pericardial nephrocytes (in the abdominal domain) and activate the gene odd. Slightly later, Srp is expressed in lymph-gland progenitors. As reported for the early hemocytes derived from the embryonic head, srp is centrally involved in lymph-gland specification. In srp-null embryos, Odd-expressing cells still formed a lymph gland-shaped cluster flanking the aorta, but these cells also express the pericardial marker pericardin (Prc), suggesting that they lose some aspects of hemocyte precursor identity or gain properties of nephrocytes. As a countercorrelate, ectopic expression of Srp in the whole cardiogenic mesoderm directed by mef2-Gal4 induces pericardial cells to adopt lymph-gland fate (Mandal, 2004).

Downregulation of tin and pnr in cells in the lateral domain of the cardiogenic mesoderm is essential for lymph-gland specification. Ectopic expression of tin or pnr by twist-Gal4 (or mef2-Gal4) causes a marked reduction in the number of lymph-gland and pericardial cells. The antagonistic effect of tin on lymph-gland progenitors resembles its earlier role in the head mesoderm that gives rise to the larval blood cells; here too, ectopic expression of tin causes a reduction in the number of hemocytes (Mandal, 2004).

Inhibiting tin and upregulating odd and srp requires input from the Notch signaling pathway. A function of Notch at 6-8 h in specification of the cardiogenic mesoderm is described. Reducing Notch function between 8 h and 10 h causes an increase in the number of cardioblasts and a concomitant loss of pericardial and lymph-gland cells. Overexpressing an activated Notch construct causes a marked increase in lymph-gland size. This late requirement for Notch signaling is separable from the earlier role of Notch in restricting the overall size of the cardiogenic mesoderm. Thus, the sum total of cardioblasts and pericardial or lymph-gland cells in Nts1 embryos shifts between 8 h and 10 h and does not differ substantially from that in wild type, whereas a combined effect on cell number and cell fate is seen in embryos with a Notch deletion. In these embryos, the cardiogenic mesoderm is hyperplasic and develops as cardioblasts at the expense of lymph-gland progenitors and pericardial nephrocytes. The dual role of Notch in restricting the numbers of a pluripotent progenitor pool and in distinguishing between the progeny of these progenitors is reminiscent of the function of Notch in sense-organ development (Mandal, 2004).

Lymph-gland formation is restricted to the thoracic region by positional cues that are provided by expression of the homeobox proteins of the Antennapedia and Bithorax complex. Specifically, Ultrabithorax (Ubx), which is expressed in segments A2-A5 of the cardiogenic mesoderm, inhibits lymph-gland formation. Loss of Ubx results in the expansion of the lymph-gland fate into the abdominal segments. Conversely, overexpression of Ubx driven by mef2-Gal4 causes the transformation of lymph-gland progenitors into pericardial nephrocytes (Mandal, 2004).

These findings are suggestive of a model of lymph-gland development in Drosophila that is similar to mammalian hematopoiesis. Lymph-gland progenitors develop as part of the cardiogenic mesoderm that also gives rise to the vascular cells (aorta and heart) and to excretory cells. Similarly, progenitor cells of the blood, aorta and excretory system are closely related both molecularly and developmentally in mammals, where they form part of the AGM. Specification of the cardiogenic mesoderm requires the input of FGF and Wg signaling, as in vertebrate hematopoiesis, where the AGM region is induced in response to several converging signaling pathways including FGF, BMP and Wnt (Mandal, 2004).

The cardiogenic mesoderm in Drosophila evolves from the dorsal mesoderm and requires input from the Htl, Dpp, Wg and Notch (N) signaling pathways. The cardiogenic mesoderm then differentiates into lymph gland, vascular cells (cardioblasts) and excretory cells (pericardial nephrocytes). A subpopulation of cardioblasts and lymph-gland cells is derived from one progenitor (hemangioblast; HB). Essential for the differentiation of the cardiogenic mesoderm is the Notch-Delta (Dl)-dependent restriction of Tin and Pnr to cardioblasts and the expression of Srp in the lymph gland. In vertebrates, similar cell types are derived from a mesodermal domain called the AGM, which also requires the input of FGF, BMP and Wnt signaling. A subset of AGM-derived cells has been proposed to constitute hemangioblasts, which produce blood progenitors and endothelial cells (Mandal, 2004).

These findings show that in Drosophila, the cardiovascular and blood-cell lineages are differentiated by an antagonistic relationship between Tin or Pnr expression in the cardioblasts and Srp expression in the lymph-gland progenitors. In vertebrates, GATA factors also have a pivotal role in specifying different lineages among blood-cell progenitors, although not much is known about what differentiates between blood progenitors as a group and endothelial progenitors. The results indicate that this step is driven by input from the Notch signaling pathway. In the thoracic cardiogenic mesoderm, Notch antagonizes tin and pnr expression and aortic cardioblast formation, and promotes srp expression and the development of lymph-gland progenitors. In vertebrates, Notch signaling is also involved in both blood and vascular development. The role of Notch during AGM morphogenesis remains to be investigated (Mandal, 2004).

Cardioblasts and lymph-gland cells can arise from the division of a single cardiogenic mesodermal cell, which should be called a hemangioblast. A previous study induced clones in the cardiogenic mesoderm but used only Tin as a marker. This study also yielded mixed two-cell clones comprising a cardioblast and a nonlabeled cell, which, in light of the current findings, must be interpreted as a lymph-gland cell. Hemangioblasts have been proposed in vertebrates, although the definitive experiment in which a precursor is marked and its lineage is tracked has not been done. Blast colony-forming cells that give rise to both lineages in vitro and common markers that belong to both cell types in vivo have been identified, but direct evidence for the existence of a common precursor has not yet been found. This study, using genetic analysis of two-cell clones, establishes the existence of such a population in Drosophila. On the basis of these results, and given the conservation of the signaling and transcriptional components described here, the prediction is that many cells of the AGM in vertebrates may give rise to only blood or only vascular cells, but a number of intermixed hemangioblasts may give rise to mixed lineages. Future genetic screens aimed at finding components in early lymph-gland development will probably identify additional pathways and strategies important for vertebrate hematopoiesis (Mandal, 2004).

The Drosophila lymph gland as a developmental model of hematopoiesis

Drosophila hematopoiesis occurs in a specialized organ called the lymph gland. In this systematic analysis of lymph gland structure and gene expression, the developmental steps in the maturation of blood cells (hemocytes) from their precursors are defined. In particular, distinct zones of hemocyte maturation, signaling and proliferation in the lymph gland during hematopoietic progression are described. Different stages of hemocyte development have been classified according to marker expression and placed within developmental niches: a medullary zone for quiescent prohemocytes, a cortical zone for maturing hemocytes and a zone called the posterior signaling center for specialized signaling hemocytes. This establishes a framework for the identification of Drosophila blood cells, at various stages of maturation, and provides a genetic basis for spatial and temporal events that govern hemocyte development. The cellular events identified in this analysis further establish Drosophila as a model system for hematopoiesis (Jung, 2005).

In the late embryo, the lymph gland consists of a single pair of lobes containing ~20 cells each. These express the transcription factors Srp and Odd skipped (Odd), and each cluster of hemocyte precursors is followed by a string of Odd-expressing pericardial cells that are proposed to have nephrocyte function. These lymph gland lobes are arranged bilaterally such that they flank the dorsal vessel, the simple aorta/heart tube of the open circulatory system, at the midline. By the second larval instar, lymph gland morphology is distinctly different in that two or three new pairs of posterior lobes have formed and the primary lobes have increased in size approximately tenfold (to ~200 cells. By the late third instar, the lymph gland has grown significantly in size (approximately another tenfold) but the arrangement of the lobes and pericardial cells has remained the same. The cells of the third instar lymph gland continue to express Srp (Jung, 2005).

The third instar lymph gland also exhibits a strong, branching network of extracellular matrix (ECM) throughout the primary lobe. This network was visualized using several GFP-trap lines in which GFP is fused to endogenous proteins. For example, line G454 represents an insertion into the viking locus, which encodes a Collagen IV component of the extracellular matrix. The hemocytes in the primary lobes of G454 (expressing Viking-GFP) appear to be clustered into small populations within pockets or chambers bounded by GFP-labeled branches of various sizes. Other lines, such as the uncharacterized GFP-trap line ZCL2867, also highlight this branching pattern. What role this intricate ECM network plays in hematopoiesis, as well as why multiple cells cluster within these ECM chambers, remains to be determined (Jung, 2005).

Careful examination of dissected, late third-instar lymph glands by differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy revealed the presence of two structurally distinct regions within the primary lymph gland lobes that have not been previously described. The periphery of the primary lobe generally exhibits a granular appearance, whereas the medial region looks smooth and compact. These characteristics were examined further with confocal microscopy using a GFP-trap line G147, in which GFP is fused to a microtubule-associated protein. The G147 line is expressed throughout the lymph gland but, in contrast to nuclear markers such as Srp and Odd, distinguishes morphological differences among cells because the GFP-fusion protein is expressed in the cytoplasm in association with the microtubule network. Cells in the periphery of the lymph gland make relatively few cell-cell contacts, thereby giving rise to gaps and voids among the cells within this region. This cellular individualization is consistent with the granularity of the peripheral region observed by DIC microscopy. By contrast, cells in the medial region were relatively compact with minimal intercellular space, which is also consistent with the smoother appearance of this region by DIC microscopy. Thus, in the late third instar, the lymph gland primary lobes consist of two physically distinct regions: a medial region consisting of compactly arranged cells, which was termed the medullary zone; and a peripheral region of loosely arranged cells, termed the cortical zone (Jung, 2005).

Mature hemocytes have been shown to express several markers, including collagens, Hemolectin, Lozenge, Peroxidasin and P1 antigen. The expression of the reporter Collagen-gal4 (Cg-gal4), which is expressed by both plasmatocytes and crystal cells, is restricted to the periphery of the primary lymph gland lobe. Comparison of Cg-gal4 expression in G147 lymph glands, in which the medullary zone and cortical zone can be distinguished, reveals that maturing hemocytes are restricted to the cortical zone. In fact, the expression of each of the maturation markers mentioned above is found to be restricted to the cortical zone. The reporter hml-gal4 and Pxn, which are expressed by the plasmatocyte and crystal cell lineages, are extensively expressed in this region. Likewise, the expression of the crystal cell lineage marker Lozenge is restricted in this manner. The spatial restriction of maturing crystal cells to the cortical zone was verified by several means, including the distribution of melanized lymph gland crystal cells in the Black cells background and analysis of the terminal marker ProPOA1. The cortical zone is also the site of P1 antigen expression, a marker of the plasmatocyte lineage. The uncharacterized GFP fusion line ZCL2826 also exhibits preferential expression in the cortical zone. Last, it was found that the homeobox transcription factor Cut is preferentially expressed in the cortical zone of the primary lobe. Although the role of Cut in Drosophila hematopoiesis is currently unknown, homologs of Cut are known to be regulators of the myeloid hematopoietic lineage in both mice and humans. Cells of the rare third cell type, lamellocytes, are also restricted to the cortical zone, based upon cell morphology and the expression of a msn-lacZ reporter (msn06946). In summary, based on the expression patterns of several genetic markers that identify the three major blood cell lineages, it is proposed that the cortical zone is a specific site for hemocyte maturation (Jung, 2005).

The medullary zone was initially defined by structural characteristics and subsequently by the lack of expression of mature hemocyte markers. However, several markers have been identified that are exclusively expressed in the medullary zone at high levels but not the cortical zone. Consistent with the compact arrangement of cells in the medullary zone, it was found that Drosophila E-cadherin (DE-cadherin or Shotgun) is highly expressed in this region. No significant expression of DE-cadherin was observed among maturing cells in the cortical zone. E-cadherin, in both vertebrates and Drosophila, is a Ca2+-dependent, homotypic adhesion molecule often expressed by epithelial cells and is a crucial component of adherens junctions. Attempts to study DE-cadherin mutant clones in the medullary zone where the protein is expressed were unsuccessful since no clones were recoverable. The reporter lines domeless-gal4 and unpaired3-gal4 are preferentially expressed in the medullary zone. The gene domeless (dome) encodes a receptor molecule known to mediate the activation of the JAK/STAT pathway upon binding of the ligand Unpaired. The unpaired3 (upd3) gene encodes a protein with homology to Unpaired and has been associated with innate immune function. These gal4 lines are in this study only as markers that correlate with the medullary zone and, at the present time, there is no evidence that their associated proteins have a role in lymph gland hematopoiesis. Other markers of interest with preferential expression in the medullary zone include the molecularly uncharacterized GFP-trap line ZCL2897 and actin5C-GFP. Cells expressing hemocyte maturation markers are not seen in the medullary zone. It is therefore reasonable to propose that this zone is largely populated by prohemocytes that will later mature in the cortical zone. Prohemocytes are characterized by their lack of maturation markers, as well as their expression of several markers described as expressed in the medullary zone (Jung, 2005).

The posterior signaling center (PSC), a small cluster of cells at the posterior tip of each of the primary (anterior-most) lymph gland lobes, is defined by its expression of the Notch ligand Serrate and the transcription factor Collier. During this analysis, several additional markers were identified that exhibit specific or preferential expression in the PSC region. For example, it was found that the reporter Dorothy-gal4 is strongly expressed in this zone. The Dorothy gene encodes a UDP-glycosyltransferase, which belongs to a class of enzymes that function in the detoxification of metabolites. The upd3-gal4 reporter, which has preferential expression in the medullary zone, is also strongly expressed among cells of the PSC. Last, three uncharacterized GFP-gene trap lines, ZCL2375, ZCL2856 and ZCL0611 were found, that are preferentially expressed in the PSC. This analysis has made it clear that the PSC is a distinct zone of cells that can be defined by the expression of multiple gene products (Jung, 2005).

The PSC can be defined just as definitively by the characteristic absence of several markers. For example, the RTK receptor Pvr, which is expressed throughout the lymph gland, is notably absent from the PSC. Likewise, dome-gal4 is not expressed in the PSC, further suggesting that this population of cells is biased toward the production of ligands rather than receptor proteins. Maturation markers such as Cg-gal4, which are expressed throughout the cortical zone, are not expressed by PSC cells. Additionally, the expression levels of the hemocyte marker Hemese and the Friend-of-GATA protein U-shaped are dramatically reduced in the PSC when compared with other hemocytes of the lymph gland. Taken together, both the expression and lack of expression of a number of genetic markers defines the cells of the PSC as a unique hemocyte population (Jung, 2005).

In contrast to primary lobes of the third instar, maturing hemocytes are generally not seen in the secondary lobes. Correspondingly, secondary lobes often have a smooth and compact appearance, much like the medullary zone of the primary lobe. Consistent with this appearance, secondary lymph gland lobes also express high levels of DE-cadherin. The size of the secondary lobe, however, varies from animal to animal and this correlates with the presence or absence of maturation markers. Smaller secondary lobes contain a few or no cells expressing maturation markers, whereas larger secondary lobes usually exhibit groups of differentiating cells. Direct comparison of DE-cadherin expression in secondary lobes with that of Cg-gal4, hml-gal4 or Lz revealed that the expression of these maturation markers occurs only in areas in which DE-cadherin is downregulated. Therefore, although there is no apparent distinction between cortical and medullary zones in differentiating secondary lobes, there is a significant correlation between the expression of maturation markers and the downregulation of DE-cadherin, as is observed in primary lobes (Jung, 2005).

The relatively late 'snapshot' of lymph gland development in the third larval instar establishes the existence of spatial zones within the lymph gland that are characterized by differences in structure as well as gene expression. In order to understand how these zones form over time, lymph glands of second instar larvae, the earliest time at which it was possible to dissect and stain, were examined for the expression of hematopoietic markers. As expected, Srp and Odd are expressed throughout the lymph gland during the second instar since they are in the late embryo and third instar lymph gland. Likewise, the hemocyte-specific marker Hemese is expressed throughout the lymph gland at this stage, although it is not present in the embryonic lymph gland (Jung, 2005).

To determine whether the cortical zone is already formed or forming in second instar lymph glands, the expression of various maturation markers were examined in a pair-wise manner to establish their temporal order. Of the markers examined, hml-gal4 and Pxn are the earliest to be expressed. The majority of maturing cells were found to be double-positive for hml-gal4 and Pxn expression, although a few cells were found to express either hml-gal4 or Pxn alone. This indicates that the expression of these markers is initiated at approximately the same time, although probably independently, during lymph gland development. The marker Cg-gal4 is next to be expressed since it was found among a subpopulation of Pxn-expressing cells. Finally, P1 antigen expression is initiated late, usually in the early third instar. Interestingly, the early expression of each of these maturation markers is restricted to the periphery of the primary lymph gland lobe, indicating that the cortical zone begins to form in this position in the second instar. Whenever possible, each genetic marker was directly compared with other pertinent markers in double-labeling experiments, except in cases such as the comparison of two different gal4 reporter lines or when available antibodies were generated in the same animal. In such cases, the relationship between the two markers, for example dome-gal4 and hml-gal4, was inferred from independent comparison with a third marker such as Pxn (Jung, 2005).

By studying the temporal sequence of expression of hemocyte-specific markers, one can describe stages in the maturation of a hemocyte. It should be noted, however, that not all hemocytes of a particular lineage are identical. For example, in the late third instar lymph gland, the large majority of mature plasmatocytes (~80%) expresses both Pxn and hml-gal4, but the remainder express only Pxn (~15%) or hml-gal4 (~5%) alone. Thus, while plasmatocytes as a group can be characterized by the expression of representative markers, populations expressing subsets of these markers indeed exist. It remains unclear at this time whether this heterogeneity in the hemocyte population is reflective of specific functional differences (Jung, 2005).

In the third instar, Pxn is a prototypical hemocyte maturation marker, while immature cells of the medullary zone express dome-gal4. Comparing the expression of these two markers in the second instar reveals an interesting developmental progression. A group of cells along the peripheral edge of these early lymph glands already express Pxn. These developing hemocytes downregulate the expression of dome-gal4, as they do in the third instar. Next to these developing hemocytes is a group of cells that expresses dome-gal4 but not Pxn; these cells are most similar to medullary zone cells of the third instar and are therefore prohemocytes. Interestingly, there also exists a group of cells in the second instar that expresses neither Pxn nor dome-gal4. This population is most easily seen in the medial parts of the gland, close to the centrally placed dorsal. These cells resemble earlier precursors in the embryo, except they express the marker Hemese. These cells are called pre-prohemocytes. Interpretation of the expression data is that pre-prohemocytes upregulate dome-gal4 to become prohemocytes. As prohemocytes begin to mature into hemocytes, dome-gal4 expression is downregulated, while the expression of maturation markers is initiated. The prohemocyte and hemocyte populations continue to be represented in the third instar as components of the medullary and cortical zones, respectively (Jung, 2005).

The cells of the PSC are already distinguishable in the late embryo by their expression of collier. It was found that the canonical PSC marker Ser-lacZ is not expressed in the embryonic lymph gland and is only expressed in a small number of cells in the second instar. This relatively late onset of expression is consistent with collier acting genetically upstream of Ser. Another finding was that the earliest expression of upd3-gal4 parallels the expression of Ser-lacZ and is restricted to the PSC region. Finally, Pvr and dome-gal4 are excluded from the PSC in the second instar, similar to what is seen in the third instar (Jung, 2005).

To determine whether maturing cortical zone cells are indeed derived from medullary zone prohemocytes, a lineage-tracing experiment was performed in which dome-gal4 was used to initiate the permanent marking of all daughter cell lineages. In this system, the dome-gal4 reporter expresses both UAS-GFP and UAS-FLP. The FLP recombinase excises an intervening FRT-flanked 'STOP cassette', allowing constitutive expression of lacZ under the control of the actin5C promoter. At any developmental time point, GFP is expressed in cells where dome-gal4 is active, while lacZ is expressed in all subsequent daughter cells regardless of whether they continue to express dome-gal4. In this experiment, cortical zone cells are permanently marked with ß-galactosidase despite not expressing dome-gal4 (as assessed by GFP), indicating that these cells are derived from a dome-gal4-positive precursor. This result is consistent with and further supports independent marker analysis that shows that dome-gal4-positive prohemocytes downregulate dome-gal4 expression as they initiate expression of maturation markers representative of cortical zone cells. As controls to the above experiment, the expression patterns of two other gal4 lines, twist-gal4 and Serrate-gal4 were determined. The reporter twist-gal4 is expressed throughout the embryonic mesoderm from which the lymph gland is derived. Accordingly, the entire lymph gland is permanently marked by ß-galactosidase despite a lack of twist-gal4 expression (GFP) in the third instar lymph gland. Analysis of Ser-gal4 reveals that PSC cells remain a distinct population of signaling cells that do not contribute to the cortical zone (Jung, 2005).

Genetic manipulation of Pvr function provides valuable insight into its involvement in the regulation of temporal events of lymph gland development. To analyze Pvr function, FLP/FRT-based Pvr-mutant clones were generated in the lymph gland early in the first instar and then examined during the third instar for the expression of maturation markers. It was found that loss of Pvr function abolishes P1 antigen and Pxn expression, but not Hemese expression. The crystal cell markers Lz and ProPOA1 are also expressed normally in Pvr-mutant clones, consistent with the observation that mature crystal cells lack or downregulate Pvr. The fact that Pvr-mutant cells express Hemese and can differentiate into crystal cells suggests that Pvr specifically controls plasmatocyte differentiation. Pvr-mutant cells do not become TUNEL positive but do express the hemocyte marker Hemese and can differentiate into crystal cells, all suggesting that the observed block in plasmatocyte differentiation within the mutant clone is not due to cell death. Additionally, Pvr-mutant clones were large and not significantly different in size from their wild-type twin spots. Thus, the primary role of Pvr is not in the control of cell proliferation. Targeting Pvr by RNA interference (RNAi) revealed the same phenotypic features, confirming that Pvr controls the transition of Hemese-positive cells to plasmatocyte fate (Jung, 2005).

Entry into S phase was monitored using BrdU incorporation and distinct proliferative phases were identified that occur during lymph gland hematopoiesis. In the second instar, proliferating cells are evenly distributed throughout the lymph gland. By the third instar, however, the distribution of proliferating cells is no longer uniform; S-phase cells are largely restricted to the cortical zone. This is particularly evident when BrdU-labeled lymph glands are co-stained with Pxn. Medullary zone cells, which can be identified by the expression of dome-gal4, rarely incorporate BrdU. Therefore, the rapidly cycling prohemocytes of the second instar lymph gland quiesce as they populate the medullary zone of the third instar. As prohemocytes transition into hemocyte fates in the cortical zone, they once again begin to expand in number. This is supported by the observation that the medullary zone in white pre-pupae does not appear diminished in size, suggesting that the primary mechanism for the expansion of the cortical zone prior to this stage is through cell division within the zone. Proliferating cells in the secondary lobes continue to be distributed uniformly in the third instar, suggesting that secondary-lobe prohemocytes do not reach a state of quiescence as do the cells of the medullary zone. These results indicate that cells of the lymph gland go through distinct proliferative phases as hematopoietic development proceeds (Jung, 2005).

This analysis of the lymph gland revealed three key features that arise during development. The first feature is the presence of three distinct zones in the primary lymph gland lobe of third instar larvae. Two of these zones, termed the cortical and medullary zones, exhibit structural characteristics that make them morphologically distinct. These zones, as well as the third zone, the PSC, are also distinguishable by the expression of specific markers. The second key feature is that cells expressing maturation markers such as Lz, ProPOA1, Pxn, hml-gal4 and Cg-gal4 are restricted to the cortical zone. The medullary zone is consistently devoid of maturation marker expression and is therefore defined as a region composed of immature hemocytes (prohemocytes). The finding of different developmental populations within the lymph gland (prohemoctyes and their derived hemocytes) is similar to the situation in vertebrates where it is known that hematopoietic stem cells and other blood precursors give rise to various mature cell types. Additionally, Drosophila hemocyte maturation is akin to the progressive maturation of myeloid and lymphoid lineages in vertebrate hematopoiesis. The third key feature of lymph gland hematopoiesis is the dynamic pattern of cellular proliferation observed in the third instar. At this stage, the vast majority of S-phase cells in the primary lobe are located in the cortical zone, suggesting a strong correlation between proliferation and hemocyte differentiation. Compared with earlier developmental stages, cell proliferation in the medullary zone actually decreases by the late third instar, suggesting that these cells have entered a quiescent state. Thus, proliferation in the lymph gland appears to be regulated such that growth, quiescence and expansion phases are evident throughout its development (Jung, 2005).

Drosophila blood cell precursors, prohemocytes and maturing hemocytes each exhibit extensive phases of proliferation. The competence of these cells to proliferate seems to be a distinct cellular characteristic that is superimposed upon the intrinsic maturation program. Based on the patterns of BrdU incorporation in developing primary and secondary lymph gland lobes, it is possible to envision at least two levels of proliferation control during hematopoiesis. It is proposed that the widespread cell proliferation observed in second instar lymph glands and in secondary lobes of third instar lymph glands occurs in response to a growth requirement that provides a sufficient number of prohemocytes for subsequent differentiation. The mechanisms promoting differentiation in the cortical zone also trigger cell proliferation, which accounts for the observed BrdU incorporation in this zone and serves to expand the effector hemocyte population. The quiescent cells of the medullary zone represent a pluripotent precursor population because they, similar to vertebrate hematopoietic precursors, rarely divide and give rise to multiple lineages and cell types (Jung, 2005).

Based on this analysis a model is proposed by which hemocytes mature in the lymph gland. Hematopoietic precursors that populate the early lymph gland are first distinguishable as Srp+, Odd+ (S+O+) cells. These will eventually give rise to a primary lymph gland lobe where the steps of hemocyte maturation are most apparent. During the first or early second instar, these S+O+ cells begin to express the hemocyte-specific marker Hemese (He) and the tyrosine kinase receptor Pvr. Such cells can be called pre-prohemocytes and, in the second instar, cells expressing only these markers occupy a narrow region near the dorsal vessel. Subsequently, a subset of these Srp+, Odd+, He+, Pvr+ (S+O+H+Pv+) pre-prohemocytes initiate the expression of dome-gal4 (dg4), thereby maturing into prohemocytes. The prohemocyte population (S+O+H+Pv+dg4+) can be subdivided into two developmental stages. Stage 1 prohemocytes, which are abundantly seen in the second instar, are proliferative, whereas stage 2 prohemocytes, exemplified by the cells of the medullary zone, are quiescent. As development continues, prohemocytes begin to downregulate dome-gal4 and express maturation markers (M; becoming S+O+H+Pv+dg4lowM+). Eventually, dome-gal4 expression is lost entirely in these cells (becoming S+O+H+Pv+dg4-M+), found generally in the cortical zone. Thus, the maturing hemocytes of the cortical zone are derived from prohemocytes previously belonging to the medullary zone. This is supported by lineage-tracing experiments that show cells expressing medullary zone markers can indeed give rise to cells of the cortical zone. In turn, the medullary zone is derived from the earlier, pre-prohemocytes. Early cortical zone cells continue to express successive maturation markers (M) as they proceed towards terminal differentiation. Depending on the hemocyte type, examples of expressed maturation markers are Pxn, P1, Lz, L1, msn-lacZ, etc. These studies have shown that differentiation of the plasmatocyte lineage requires Pvr, while previous work has shown that the Notch pathway is crucial for the crystal cell fate. Both the JAK/STAT and Notch pathways have been implicated in lamellocyte production (Jung, 2005).

Previous investigations have demonstrated that similar transcription factors and signal transduction pathways are used in the specification of blood lineages in both vertebrates and Drosophila. Given this relationship, Drosophila represents a powerful system for identifying genes crucial to the hematopoietic process that are conserved in the vertebrate system. The work presented here provides an analysis of hematopoietic development in the Drosophila lymph gland that not only identifies stage-specific markers, but also reveals developmental mechanisms underlying hemocyte specification and maturation. The prohemocyte population in Drosophila becomes mitotically quiescent, much as their multipotent precursor counterparts in mammalian systems. These conserved mechanisms further establish Drosophila as an excellent genetic model for the study of hematopoiesis (Jung, 2005).

Subdivision and developmental fate of the head mesoderm in Drosophila

This paper defines temporal and spatial subdivisions of the embryonic head mesoderm and describes the fate of the main lineages derived from this tissue. During gastrulation, only a fraction of the head mesoderm (primary head mesoderm; PHM) invaginates as the anterior part of the ventral furrow. The PHM can be subdivided into four linearly arranged domains, based on the expression of different combinations of genetic markers (tinman, heartless, snail, serpent, mef-2, zfh-1). The anterior domain (PHMA) produces a variety of cell types, among them the neuroendocrine gland (corpus cardiacum). PHMB, forming much of the'T-bar' of the ventral furrow, migrates anteriorly and dorsally and gives rise to the dorsal pharyngeal musculature. PHMC is located behind the T-bar and forms part of the anterior endoderm, besides contributing to hemocytes. The most posterior domain, PHMD, belongs to the anterior gnathal segments and gives rise to a few somatic muscles, but also to hemocytes. The procephalic region flanking the ventral furrow also contributes to head mesoderm (secondary head mesoderm, SHM) that segregates from the surface after the ventral furrow has invaginated, indicating that gastrulation in the procephalon is much more protracted than in the trunk. This study distinguishes between an early SHM (eSHM) that is located on either side of the anterior endoderm and is the major source of hemocytes, including crystal cells. The eSHM is followed by the late SHM (lSHM), which consists of an anterior and posterior component (lSHMa, lSHMp). The lSHMa, flanking the stomodeum anteriorly and laterally, produces the visceral musculature of the esophagus, as well as a population of tinman-positive cells that is interpreted as a rudimentary cephalic aorta ('cephalic vascular rudiment'). The lSHM contributes hemocytes, as well as the nephrocytes forming the subesophageal body, also called garland cells (de Velasco, 2005).

The mesoderm is a morphologically distinct cell layer that can be recognized in early embryos of most bilaterian phyla and that gives rise to tissues interposed between ectodermal and endodermal epithelia, including muscle, connective, blood, vascular, and excretory tissue. Besides the differentiative fate of tissues derived from it, the mesoderm shares several common properties in regard to its formation during gastrulation. The anlage of the mesoderm is sandwiched in between the anlage of the endoderm and the neurectoderm. This has been documented in most detail in anamniote vertebrates, where signals from the vegetal blastomeres (the anlage of the endoderm) act on the adjacent marginal zone of the future ectoderm to induce mesoderm. Although gastrulation proceeds quite differently in arthropods from the way it does in chordates, the proximity of the mesodermal anlage to future endoderm and neurectoderm is conserved, and numerous signaling pathways and transcriptional regulators that share similar function and expression patterns in arthropods and chordates have been identified (de Velasco, 2005 and references therein).

Following gastrulation, the mesoderm is subdivided along the dorso-ventral axis into several subdivisions laid out in a distinct dorso-ventral order. In vertebrates, cells located in the dorsal part of the mesoderm anlage give rise to notochord and somites, which in turn produce muscular, skeletal, and connective tissue. Next to the somitic mesoderm is the intermediate mesoderm that will form the excretory and reproductive system. The ventral mesoderm (lateral plate) gives rise to blood, vascular system, visceral musculature, and coelomic cavity. In arthropods, fundamentally similar mesodermal subdivisions can be recognized, and similarities extend to the relative positions these domains obtain relative to each other and relative to the adjacent neurectoderm. For example, precursors of visceral muscles, vascular system, and blood are at the edge of the mesoderm facing away from the neural primordium (ventral in vertebrates, dorsal in arthropods (de Velasco, 2005 and references therein).

The subdivision of the vertebrate mesoderm into distinct longitudinal tissue columns with different fates is seen throughout the trunk and head of the embryo. However, several significant differences between the head and the trunk are immediately apparent. For example, cells derived from the anterior neurectoderm form the neural crest that migrates laterally and gives rise to many of the tissues that are produced by mesoderm in the trunk. As a result, the fates taken over by the head mesoderm are more limited than those of the trunk mesoderm. In contrast, the head mesoderm produces several unique lineages, such as the heart (cardiac mesoderm) and a population of early differentiating macrophages. Moreover, some of the signaling pathways responsible for inducing different mesodermal fates in the trunk appear to operate in a different manner in the head. A recently described example is the Wnt signal that induces somatic musculature in the trunk, but inhibits the same fate in the head (de Velasco, 2005 and references therein).

The head mesoderm of arthropods, like that of vertebrates, also appears to deviate in many ways from the trunk mesoderm. For example, specialized lineages like embryonic blood cells and nephrocytes forming the subesophageal body (also called garland cells) arise exclusively in the head. That being said, very little is known about how the arthropod head mesoderm arises and what types of tissues derive from it. The existing literature mainly uses histology, which severely limits the possibilities of following different cell types forward or backward in time. In this paper, several molecular markers have been used to initiate more detailed studies of the head mesoderm in Drosophila. The goal was to establish temporal and spatial subdivisions of the head mesoderm and, using molecular markers expressed from early stages onward, to follow the fate of the lineages derived from this embryonic tissue. Besides hemocytes and pharyngeal muscles described earlier, the head mesoderm also gives rise to several other lineages, including visceral muscle, putative vascular cells, nephrocytes, and neuroendocrine cells. The development of the head mesoderm is discussed in comparison with the trunk mesoderm and in the broader context of insect embryology (de Velasco, 2005).

The Drosophila head mesoderm, as traditionally defined, includes all mesoderm cells originating anterior to the cephalic furrow. The formation of the head mesoderm is complicated by the fact that (unlike the mesoderm of the trunk) only part of it invaginates with the ventral furrow; by far, the majority of head mesoderm cells, recognizable in a stage 10 or 11 embryo, segregate from the surface epithelium of the head after the ventral furrow has formed. Another complicating factor is that head mesoderm cells derived from different antero-posterior levels adopt very different fates, unlike the situation in the trunk where mesodermal fates within different segments along the AP axis are fairly homogenous, with obvious exceptions such as the gonadal mesoderm that is derived exclusively from a subset of abdominal segments. Using several different markers, this study has followed the origin, migration pathways, and later, fates of head mesoderm cells (de Velasco, 2005).

The anterior part of the ventral furrow, called primary head mesoderm (PHM) in the following, includes cells that will contribute to diverse tissues, including muscle, hemocytes, endoderm, and several ill-defined cell populations closely associated with the brain and neuroendocrine system. For clarification, the anterior ventral furrow will be divided into the following domains:

The anterior lip of the T-bar (PHMA) is the source of the corpus cardiacum, as well as other gt-positive cells that at least in part end up as nerve cells flanking the frontal connective and frontal ganglion. These cells continue the expression of giant throughout late embryonic development; they represent a hitherto unknown class of nonneuroblast-derived neurons (de Velasco, 2005).

The posterior lip of the T-bar (PHMB) can be followed towards later stages by its continued expression of htl. These cells, called the procephalic somatic mesoderm, form a bilateral cluster that moves dorso-anteriorly into the labrum and becomes the dorsal pharyngeal musculature. Htl expression almost disappears in these cells around late stage 11, but is reinitiated at stage 12 and stays strong until stage 14, when the dorsal pharyngeal muscles differentiate. Many of the genes expressed in the somatic musculature of the trunk and its precursors (Dmef2, beta-3-tubulin) are also expressed in the procephalic somatic mesoderm (de Velasco, 2005).

The part of the ventral furrow posteriorly adjacent to the T-bar (PHMC) expresses srp, forkhead (fkh), and other endoderm/hemocyte markers. After the ventral furrow closes in the ventral midline (stage 7/8), these cells form a compact median mass, most of which represents part of the anterior endoderm that gives rise to the midgut epithelium. Starting at around this stage, the lateral part of the hemocyte-forming 'secondary head mesoderm' ingresses in between the endoderm and the surface ectoderm. It is likely that some of the PHMC cells invaginating already with the ventral furrow, along with the cells that form the anterior endoderm, also give rise to hemocytes. Precursors of hemocytes and midgut are difficult to distinguish during and shortly after ventral furrow invagination since both express srp and other markers shared between hemocytes and midgut precursors. At around stage 9, the two populations of precursors disengage. The endoderm remains a compact mesenchyme attached to the invaginating stomodeum; hemocyte precursors move dorsally and take on the shape of expanding vertical plates interposed in between endoderm and ectoderm (de Velasco, 2005).

Domain PHMD, the short portion of the ventral furrow situated posterior to the endoderm, along with a considerable portion of the mesoderm behind the cephalic furrow, forms the mesoderm of the three gnathal segments (mandible, maxilla, labium). The gnathal mesoderm in many ways behaves like the mesoderm of thoracic and abdominal segments. It gives rise to somatic muscle (the lateral pharyngeal muscles), visceral muscle, and fat body. Unlike trunk mesoderm, gnathal mesoderm does not produce cardioblasts and pericardial cells. Instead, a large proportion of gnathal mesoderm cells, joining the anteriorly adjacent secondary procephalic mesoderm, adopt the fate of hemocytes (de Velasco, 2005).

Besides the ventral furrow, other parts of the ventral procephalon produce head mesoderm in a complex succession of delamination and ingression events. The head mesoderm that forms from outside the ventral furrow will be called 'secondary mesoderm' (SHM) in the following. Based on the time of formation and the position relative to the stomodeum, the following phases and domains of secondary head mesoderm development can be distinguished.

Following the obliteration of the ventral furrow at stage 8, the eSHM delaminates from the ventral surface 'meso-ectoderm' (considering that this epithelium still contains mesodermal progenitors!) flanking the endodermal mass. The eSHM forms two monolayered sheets that gradually move dorsally and posteriorly; by stage 9, the eSHM cells line the basal surface of the emerging head neuroblasts. An undefined number of primary head mesoderm cells derived from domain PHMC of the ventral furrow are mingled together with the eSHM cells. The ultimate fate of the eSHM is that of hemocytes: they express srp, followed slightly later by other blood cell markers (e.g., peroxidasin and asrij). A subset of hemocytes, called crystal cells, derive from precursors that form a morphologically conspicuous cluster at the dorsal edge of the eSHM, identifiable from early stage 10 onward by the expression of lz. The mechanism by which at least part of the eSHM delaminates is unique. Thus, it is formed by the vertically oriented division of the surface epithelium, whereby the inner daughters will become eSHMe and the outer ones ectoderm. The focus of vertical mitosis has named the procephalic domain in which it occurs 'mitotic domain #9' (de Velasco, 2005).

From late stage 9 onward, the early SHMs are followed inside the embryo by the closely adjacent posterior late SHMs. One cluster of posterior late secondary head mesoderm (lSHMp) cells delaminates from the surface epithelium flanking the posterior lip of the stomodeum; a second lSHMp cluster appears at the same stage at a slightly more posterior level. The first cluster seems to contribute to the hemocyte population; the posterior cluster gives rise to the nephrocytes forming the subesophageal body (also called garland cells; labeled by CG32094). Garland cell precursors are initially arranged as a paired cluster latero-ventrally of the esophagus primordium; subsequently, the clusters fuse in the midline and form a crescent underneath the esophagus. Garland cells are distinguished from crystal cells by their size, location, and arrangement: crystal cells are large, round cells grouped in an oblong cloud dorso-anterior to the proventriculus. Garland cells are smaller, closely attached to each other, and lie ventral of the esophagus (de Velasco, 2005).

During stages 10 and 11, cells delaminate beside and anterior to the stomodeum, originating from the anlage of the esophagus and the epipharynx (labrum). These cells, called anterior late secondary head mesoderm cells (lSHMa), can be followed by their expression of tin. Two groups can be distinguished. The tin-positive cells delaminating from the esophageal anlage (es) give rise to the visceral musculature (vm) surrounding the esophagus. These cells lose tin expression soon after their segregation, but can be recognized by other visceral mesoderm markers such as anti-Connectin. More dorsally, in the anlage of the clypeolabrum (cl) delaminate, the dorsal subpopulation of the lSHMas, which rapidly migrates posteriorly on either side and slightly dorsal of the esophagus, can be found. These cells retain expression of tin into the late embryo. They assemble into two longitudinal rows stretching alongside the roof of the esophagus primordium. During late embryogenesis, they move posteriorly along with the esophagus towards a position behind the brain commissure. Many of the tin-positive SHMs apparently undergo apoptosis: initially counting approximately 25 on either side, they decrease to 12-15 at stage 14 to finally form a single, irregular row of about 15 cells total in the late embryo. These cells come into contact with the anterior tip of the dorsal vessel. This formation of previously undescribed cells, for which the term 'procephalic vascular cells', is proposed, is interpreted as a rudiment of the head aorta, which forms a prominent part of the dorsal vessel in many insect groups (de Velasco, 2005).

On the basis of additional molecular markers, the tin-positive procephalic vascular cells are further subdivided into two populations. The first subpopulation expresses the muscle and cardioblast-specific marker Dmef2; the second type is Dmef2-negative. In the dorsal vessel of the trunk, tin-positive cells also fall into a Dmef2-positive and a Dmef2-negative population. Dmef2-positive cells of the trunk represent the cardioblasts, myoendothelial cells lining the lumen of the dorsal vessel. Dmef2-negative/tin-positive cells form a somewhat irregular double row of cells attached to the ventral wall of the dorsal vessel. The ultimate fate of these cells has not been explored yet. However, preliminary data suggest that they develop into a muscle band that runs alongside the larval dorsal vessel. This would correspond to the situation in other insects in which such a ventral cardiac muscle band has been described (de Velasco, 2005).

The role of tinman in the formation of the procephalic vascular rudiment was investigated by assaying tin-mutant embryos for the expression of Dmef2. Similar to the cardioblasts of the trunk, the Dmef2-positive cells of the procephalic vascular rudiment are absent in tin mutants. It is quite likely that the (Dmef2-negative) remainder of the procephalic vascular rudiment is affected as well by loss of tin, but in the absence of appropriate markers (besides tin itself, which is not expressed in the mutant), it was not possible to substantiate this proposal (de Velasco, 2005).

At the time of appearance of the ventral furrow, segmental markers such as hh do not allow the distinction between distinct 'preoral' segments. Thus, hh is expressed in a wide procephalic stripe in front of the regularly sized mandibular stripe. During stage 7, the procephalic hh stripe splits into an anterior, antennal stripe and a posterior, short, intercalary stripe. The anterior lip of the ventral furrow (domain PHMA) coincides with the anterior boundary of the antenno-intercalary stripe. Thus, the primary head mesoderm and endoderm originating from within the anterior ventral furrow can be considered a derivative of the antennal and intercalary segments. This interpretation is supported by the expression of the homeobox gene labial (lab) found in the intercalary segment. The labial domain covers much of the anterior ventral furrow, including domains PHMB-C (de Velasco, 2005).

Morphogenetic movements in the ventral head, associated with the closure of the ventral furrow, the formation of the stomodeal placode, and the subsequent invagination of the stomodeum result in a shift of head segmental boundaries. The antennal segment tilts backward, as can be seen from the orientation of the antennal hh stripe that from stage 8 onward forms an almost horizontal line, connecting the cephalic furrow with the sides of the stomodeal invagination (which falls within the ventral realm of the antennal segment, in Drosophila as well as other insects). Since the expression of hh, like that of engrailed (en), coincides with the posterior boundary of a segment, the territory located ventral to the antennal hh stripe falls within the intercalary segment. This implies that most, if not all, of the posterior late SHM, is intercalary in origin. It is further plausible to consider that the anterior lSHM belongs to the intercalary and antennal segment. The vascular cells of the head, a conspicuous derivative of the anterior lSHM in Drosophila, are derived from the antennal mesoderm in other insects. The labrum, with which much of the anterior lSHM is associated, represents a structure that has always been difficult to integrate in the segmental organization of the head. Most likely the labrum represents part of the intercalary segment; this would help explain some of the unusual characteristics of the head mesoderm (de Velasco, 2005).

In conclusion, several fundamental similarities are found between the mesoderm of the head and that of the trunk regarding the tissues they give rise to, and possibly the signaling pathways deciding over these fates. After an initial phase of structural and molecular homogeneity, the trunk mesoderm becomes subdivided into a dorsal and a ventral domain by a Dpp-signaling event that emanates from the dorsal ectoderm. The dorsal domain, characterized by the Dpp-dependent continued expression of tinman, becomes the source of visceral and cardiogenic mesoderm, among other cell types. A role of Dpp/BMP signaling in cardiogenesis seems to be conserved among insects and vertebrates. Subsequent signaling steps, involving both Wingless and Notch/Delta, separate between these two fates and further subdivide the cardiogenic mesoderm into several distinct lineages, such as cardioblast, pericardial cells, and secondary hemocyte precursors (lymph gland). As a result of these signaling events, Tinman and several other fate-determining transcription factors become restricted to their respective lineages: tin to the cardioblasts, odd to pericardial cells and hemocyte precursors, zfh1 and srp to hemocyte precursors and fat body. Dmef2 and several other transcription factors become restricted to various combinations of muscle types (somatic, visceral, cardiac) (de Velasco, 2005).

In the head mesoderm, the above genes are associated with similar fates. Tin and Dmef2 appear widely in the procephalic ventral furrow and the anterior lSHM before getting restricted to the procephalic vascular rudiment and/or the pharyngeal musculature, respectively. In contrast with the initially ubiquitous expression of Tin and Dmef2 in the trunk mesoderm, those parts of the head mesoderm giving rise to hemocytes (PHMC, posterior lSHM) never express these mesodermal genes. Previous work has shown that the head gap gene buttonhead (btd) is responsible for the early repression of tin in the above mentioned domains of the head mesoderm. The early absence of Tin and Dmef2 in the head mesodermal hemocyte precursors is paralleled by the presence of Srp and Zfh1 in these cells. Interestingly, Srp/Zfh-positive cells of the head produce only hemocytes and no fat body, suggesting that an as-yet-uncharacterized signaling step prevents the formation of fat body in the head. It is tempting to speculate that there exists within the mesoderm a 'blood/fat body equivalence group'. Blood cells and fat body share not only the expression of fate-determining genes such as srp and zfh1, but also, later, functional properties that have to do with immunity. In the trunk, the blood/fat body equivalence group gives rise mostly to fat body, producing only a limited number of hemocyte precursors in the dorsal mesoderm of the thoracic segments. In the head, on the other hand, all cells of the equivalence group become hemocytes (de Velasco, 2005).

Attention is drawn to another mesodermal lineage that produces related, yet not identical, cell types in the trunk and the head: the nephrocytes. Nephrocytes are defined by their characteristic ultrastructure (membrane invaginations sealed off by junctions) that attests to their excretory function. In the trunk, nephrocytes are represented by the pericardial cells that settle beside the cardioblasts; a newly discovered nephrocyte population ('star cells') invading the Malpighian tubules is derived from the mesoderm of the tail segments. In the head, nephrocytes aggregate near the junction between esophagus and proventriculus as the subesophageal body, also called garland cells. The fact that from the early stages of development onward different transcription factors are expressed in garland cells and pericardial cells suggests that these cells perform similar, yet not fully overlapping, functions (de Velasco, 2005).

Active hematopoietic hubs in Drosophila adults generate hemocytes and contribute to immune response

Blood cell development in Drosophila shares significant similarities with vertebrate. The conservation ranges from biphasic mode of hematopoiesis to signaling molecules crucial for progenitor cell formation, maintenance, and differentiation. Primitive hematopoiesis in Drosophila ensues in embryonic head mesoderm, whereas definitive hematopoiesis happens in larval hematopoietic organ, the lymph gland. This organ, with the onset of pupation, ruptures to release hemocytes into circulation. It is believed that the adult lacks a hematopoietic organ and survives on the contribution of both embryonic and larval hematopoiesis. However, these studies revealed a surge of blood cell development in the dorsal abdominal hemocyte clusters of adult fly. These active hematopoietic hubs are capable of blood cell specification and can respond to bacterial challenges. The presence of progenitors and differentiated hemocytes embedded in a functional network of Laminin A and Pericardin within this hematopoietic hub projects it as a simple version of the vertebrate bone marrow (Ghosh, 2015).

Employing hemolectin-Gal4, UAS-GFP, this study has identified four hematopoietic blood cell clusters along the dorsal midline in the abdominal segments A1-A4 of adult flies. Of the four clusters, the one in the abdominal segment A1 has the maximum aggregation of cells that occupies the area that spans the lateral and dorsal sides of the heart. Located just below the dorsal cuticle of the abdominal cavity, the cells are assembled in a groove defined by transverse heart muscles and body wall muscles. The longitudinal heart muscle forming the dorsal diaphragm separates the heart and the cluster from abdominal cavity. With respect to the pericardial diaphragm formed by pericardial cells present on either side of the cardiac tube, these hemocytes are located dorsally. Thus, these clusters remain secluded from rest of the abdominal cavity by the dorsal and the pericardial diaphragm (Ghosh, 2015).

The hemocytes within the clusters are embedded in an extensive network of extracellular matrix proteins surrounding the heart and the pericardial cells. One of the important components of this network is the type IV collagen-like protein, Pericardin. In homozygous mutant for lonely heart (loh) , a gene encoding a secreted receptor of Pericardin (Drechsler, 2013), the hemocytes fail to form the cluster, as this network gets significantly affected. Similar result is observed upon knocking down the expression of Laminin A, another important component of the network, by driving UAS-laminin A RNAi in the cardiac tube by mef2-Gal4. Based on expression and functional analyses, it is concluded that both Pericardin and Laminin A function in maintaining adhesive interaction with the hemocytes aiding in formation of the clusters. Interestingly, Laminin A polypeptides and collagen IV are also prevalent in vertebrate bone marrow. The finding that the blood cells are fenestrated in a functional network of Laminin A and Pericardin raised the speculation that these sites might function as bone marrow-like tissues in adult flies and thereby demanded an in-depth analysis of the cell types present therein (Ghosh, 2015).

For detailed characterization of the cell types, this study focused on the largest aggregation present in the segment A1. Primarily based on the expression of peroxidasin-GFP (pxn-GFP) and NimC1/ P1, the cluster was found to house a large number of plasmatocytes, the most predominant differentiated blood cell. Interestingly, the cells in the cluster express croquemort (crq), an embryonic marker for plasmatocytes. The embryonic origin of the plasmatocytes was further validated by using G-TRACE construct that enables detection of cells that had once expressed any particular gene prior to the time of investigation (lineage traced) as well as those in which the gene is expressed at the time of observation (live expression). Activation of G-TRACE system by a Gal4 for glial cell missing (gcm), a gene known to express exclusively in embryonic plasmatocytes, results in the detection of few P1-positive gcm lineage traced (enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein [EGFP]) cells, thereby confirming that the cluster harbors plasmatocytes of embryonic origin. In addition to these markers, the cells in the cluster express several lymph gland hemocyte-specific markers like ZCL2897, and are Serpent (Srp) and dorothy-GFP positive, even some of them are lineage traced for collier. Thus, the hemocyte clusters is a medley of embryonic and larval lineages (Ghosh, 2015).

Despite one report that suggests the presence of C4 expressing crystal cells in adult circulation, it is considered that crystal cells are not present in adults. Primarily, this is due to the absence of any Prophenoloxidase (proPO) expressing crystal cell in circulation. This study, however, observed that 5-days post-eclosion (dpe), there are some Hindsight (Hnt)-positive crystal cells present within the cluster. Co-localization of lozenge-GFP (lz) with proPO further supports these findings. To have a functional correlate, activation of proPO was heat induced in crystal cells. This results in formation of melanized crystal cells on dorsal side of the abdomen, corresponding to the position of first cluster. These results clearly establish the presence of resident functional crystal cells in the clusters (Ghosh, 2015).

GATA factor Serpent (Srp) is expressed in low levels in all hemocytes, including plasmatocytes and crystal cells. However, the hemocyte precursor cell can be identified by the presence of high levels of Srp expression. Analysis of developing cluster at 2 dpe reveals the presence of cells positive for both Srp and Hemolectin (plasmatocytes), and a small subset of cells exclusively expressing Srp. No crystal cells (Hnt) are present in the cluster. In contrast, at 5 dpe, along with the two cell types mentioned above, some Srp- and Hnt-positive crystal cells are seen. Quantitative analysis of the above observations clearly demonstrate an increase in the number of differentiated cells (plasmatocytes and crystal cells) with a concomitant decline in the number of cells exclusively expressing Srp at 5 versus 2 dpe. These results also indicate that the Srp-positive cells within the cluster that do not express either hml or Hnt might be the precursor cells, yet to turn on differentiation (Ghosh, 2015).

The crystal cell development was followed in the cluster. Since activation of Notch (N) pathway precedes Lz expression in crystal cells, a recombinant fly line was generated with 12XSu(H)lacZ in the background of lz-GFP. Su(H) lacZ-positive cells are first seen in the cluster 2 dpe, whereas the expression of lz-GFP is observed only on 3 dpe. Interestingly, some of these lzGFP-positive cells still have low levels of Su(H)lacZ expression. By 5 dpe, an increase was observed in the number of cells that are either expressing lz-GFP or have low levels of Su(H)lacZ expression along with lz-GFP expression. However, at 7 dpe, while an increase in number of lz-GFP cells can be seen, there is a decrease in the number of double-positive cells. The number of cells expressing only Su(H)lacZ that remain more or less unaltered till 5 dpe demonstrates a sharp decline on day 7. Quantitative analysis of the cell types present in the cluster based on the expressions of Su(H)lacZ and lz-GFP further ascertains the above observations. These results, therefore, clearly demonstrate de novo origin of lz-GFP-positive crystal cells from Su(H)lacZ-positive cells within the cluster (Ghosh, 2015).

To determine whether Su(H)lacZ-positive cells originate from the Srp positive precursors, the the expression of both Srp and Su(H)lacZ within the cluster was monitored. Initially, while some cells that turn on Su(H)lacZ have high levels of Srp expression in subsequent days, as the Su(H)lacZ expression gets stabilized, a reduction in Srp expression is observed. This result establishes that crystal cells develop in adult cluster from high Srp-positive precursor cells, and this process requires N signaling. As a functional correlate to establish the presence of precursor cells in the cluster, N signaling was tweaked to determine its effect on differentiation of crystal cells. Since the onset of Su(H)lacZ and lz-GFP expression in the cluster is observed at 2 and 3 dpe, respectively, N signaling was impaired in the precursors by driving UAS-N RNAi using hemese-Gal4 from 2 dpe. This resulted in complete loss of crystal cells compared with that observed in WT clusters. Interestingly, the marginal increase in the number of plasmatocytes observed by knocking down N correlates with the number of crystal cells missing in this genetic background when compared to control. Likewise, overexpressing N in these cells results in almost 7-fold increase in the number of crystal cells with a significant drop in the number of plasmatocytes (Ghosh, 2015).

It is therefore quite evident from the results that the clusters of blood cells on dorsal side of adult fly are not a mere aggregation of hemocytes of embryonic and larval origin but also houses true progenitors. The very fact that they house blood cell precursors and exhibit dynamicity as de novo crystal cells get differentiated within them qualifies them to be considered as active hubs of hematopoiesis in adult (Ghosh, 2015).

Upon identifying the hemocyte precursors, attempts were made to define their origin. The results demonstrate that collier lineage traced progenitors in the hub originate from the hemocyte precursors present in the tertiary and quaternary lobes of larval lymph gland and that they can give rise to both plasmatocytes and crystal cells (Ghosh, 2015).

In summary this study unravels the presence of active hematopoietic hubs in Drosophila adults. Refuting the existing notion that adults rely on long-lived hemocytes originating from embryonic and larval stages, this study was successful in establishing that a surge of hematopoiesis happens in these hubs as the precursors present within differentiate into both crystal cells and plasmatocytes. The functionality of the hub gets further validated, since it was observed that besides exhibiting phagocytic activity the otherwise quiescent cells re-enter into proliferative mode in response to bacterial infection. These findings bring about a paradigm shift in understanding of the process of hematopoiesis in Drosophila. With its well-characterized embryonic and larval hematopoietic activities, Drosophila has been serving as a powerful model for hematopoietic studies. In spite of that, the system seemed to be incomplete due to lack of detailed developmental analysis of hematopoiesis in adults. This effort in establishing that the process of definitive hematopoiesis extends to adults expands the scope of exploiting this model system (Ghosh, 2015).

Effects of Mutation or Deletion

Mutant embryos lack the entire midgut and do not show endodermal differentiation. They gastrulate normally, but prospective anterior endodermal midgut cells acquire properties of ectodermal foregut cells, and prospective posterior endodermal midgut forms an additonal hindgut. These transformations are homeotic in nature (Reuter, 1994). serpent mutants fail to retract the germ band (Reuter, 1994).

In srp mutants the primordium of the hemocytes invaginates with the ventral furrow. Expression of mutant SRP mRNA is maintained during germ band extension; however, the cells then fail to proliferate or migrate and subsequently die. As a consequence, srp mutants are devoid of mature hemocytes, which by stage 12 would normally be found throughout the embryo (Rehorn, 1997).

The amnioserosa is an extraembryonic, epithelial tissue that covers the dorsal side of the Drosophila embryo. The initial development of the amnioserosa is controlled by the dorsoventral patterning genes. A group of genes, which is referred to as the U-shaped-group (ush-group), is required for maintenance of the amnioserosa tissue once it has differentiated. Using several molecular markers, amnioserosa development was examined in the ush-group mutants: u-shaped (ush), hindsight (hnt), serpent and tail-up (tup). The amnioserosa in these mutants is specified correctly and begins to differentiate as in wild type. However, following germ-band extension, there is a premature loss of the amnioserosa. This cell loss is a consequence of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in ush, hnt and srp, but not in tup (Frank, 1996).

An analysis of srp mutant embryos reveals a gradual loss of precursor fat cells that is likely due to apoptosis. serpent P282 is a hemocyte-specific allele of serpent. In mutant embryos, Srp protein is found in a normal wild-type pattern except it is absent from the cephalic mesoderm primordia and consequently the hemocytes are absent. In srp6G54, late precursor fat cells undergo programmed cell death. It is concluded that these mutants lack expression of late fat-cell markers (such as Adh and DCg1) because of the loss of late precursor fat cells rather than the inability to initiate transcription of Adh and DCg1 (Sam, 1996).

Cell death plays an essential role in development, and the removal of cell corpses presents an important challenge for the developing organism. Macrophages are largely responsible for the clearance of cell corpses in Drosophila melanogaster and mammalian systems. The developmental requirement for macrophages in Drosophila was examined and macrophage function was found to be essential for central nervous system (CNS) morphogenesis. Mutations were generated and analyzed in the Pvr locus, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase of the PDGF/VEGF family that is required for hemocyte migration. Loss of Pvr function causes the mispositioning of glia within the CNS and the disruption of the CNS axon scaffold. Inhibition of hemocyte development or of Croquemort, a receptor required for macrophage-mediated corpse engulfment, causes similar CNS defects. These data indicate that macrophage-mediated clearance of cell corpses is required for proper morphogenesis of the Drosophila CNS (Sears, 2003).

To examine the potential contribution of hemocytes to CNS development, animals mutant for serpent (srp), which encodes a GATA-family transcription factor required for hemocyte development, were examined. srpneo45 is a hemocyte-specific allele of serpent, and srpneo45 animals lack all hemocytes. Examination of srpneo45 embryos demonstrated that not only do srpneo45 mutants lack macrophages, they also exhibit CNS axon scaffold defects similar to those in Pvr mutants, with characteristic rounding of commissures. Quantitative representation of CNS axon tract morphology in srpneo45 mutants confirmed this observation. srpneo45 animals also show longitudinal glia positioning defects similar to those seen in Pvr mutants. Thus, mutants that disrupt either hemocyte production or migration cause similar alterations in CNS morphogenesis (Sears, 2003).

One possible explanation for dependence of CNS morphogenesis on hemocytes is that hemocyte-derived macrophages are needed to engulf cell corpses generated during development. To test this possibility animals in which macrophages appear to develop normally, but fail to engulf cell corpses, were examined. This was achieved using animals with reduced function of crq, which encodes a CD36-related receptor required for Drosophila macrophages to engulf dead cells. crq loss-of-function was examined using RNAi. Embryos injected with dsRNA corresponding to either of two non-overlapping regions within the Crq transcript had CNS axon scaffold defects similar to those in Pvr and srp mutants. In crq RNAi embryos the ratio of distance between longitudinals to distance between commissures was significantly different from wild type, but not significantly different from Pvr or srp mutants. In addition, crq RNAi animals also showed defects in the positioning of Repo-positive glia similar to those seen in Pvr and srp mutants. These data further support the importance of hemocytes in CNS morphogenesis and specifically suggest that engulfment of dead cells by hemocyte-derived macrophages is essential for CNS development (Sears, 2003).

Gene regulatory networks controlling hematopoietic progenitor niche cell production and differentiation in the Drosophila lymph gland

Hematopoiesis occurs in two phases in Drosophila, with the first completed during embryogenesis and the second accomplished during larval development. The lymph gland serves as the venue for the final hematopoietic program, with this larval tissue well-studied as to its cellular organization and genetic regulation. While the medullary zone contains stem-like hematopoietic progenitors, the posterior signaling center (PSC) functions as a niche microenvironment essential for controlling the decision between progenitor maintenance versus cellular differentiation. This study used PSC-specific GAL4 driver and UAS-gene RNAi strains, to selectively knockdown individual gene functions in PSC cells. The effect of abrogating the function of 820 genes was assessed as to their requirement for niche cell production and differentiation. 100 genes were shown to be essential for normal niche development, with various loci placed into sub-groups based on the functions of their encoded protein products and known genetic interactions. For members of three of these groups, loss- and gain-of-function phenotypes were characterized. Gene function knockdown of members of the BAP chromatin-remodeling complex resulted in niche cells that do not express the hedgehog (hh) gene and fail to differentiate filopodia believed important for Hh signaling from the niche to progenitors. Abrogating gene function of various members of the insulin-like growth factor and TOR signaling pathways resulted in anomalous PSC cell production, leading to a defective niche organization. Further analysis of the Pten, TSC1, and TSC2 tumor suppressor genes demonstrated their loss-of-function condition resulted in severely altered blood cell homeostasis, including the abundant production of lamellocytes, specialized hemocytes involved in innate immune responses. Together, this cell-specific RNAi knockdown survey and mutant phenotype analyses identified multiple genes and their regulatory networks required for the normal organization and function of the hematopoietic progenitor niche within the lymph gland (Tokusumi, 2012).

The discovery of a stem cell-like hematopoietic progenitor niche in Drosophila represents a significant contribution of this model organism to the study of stem cell biology and blood cell development. Extensive findings support the belief that the PSC functions as the niche within the larval lymph gland, with this cellular domain essential to the control of blood cell homeostasis within this hematopoietic organ. Molecular communication between the PSC and prohemocytes present in the lymph gland medullary zone is crucial for controlling the decision as to maintaining a pluri-potent progenitor state versus initiating a hemocyte differentiation program. This lymph gland cellular organization and the signaling pathways controlling hematopoieis therein have prompted several researchers in the field to point out its functional similarity to the HSC niche present in mammalian (Tokusumi, 2012).

As a means to discover new information on genetic and molecular mechanisms at work within a hematopoietic progenitor niche microenvironment, an RNAi-based loss-of-function analysis was carried out to selectively eliminate individual gene functions in PSC cells. The effect of knocking-down the function of 820 lymph gland-expressed genes was assessed as to their requirement for niche cell production and differentiation, and 100 of these genes were shown to be required for one or more aspects of niche development. The distinguishable phenotypes observed in these analyses included change in number of Hh-expressing cells, change in number of Antp-expressing cells, scattered and disorganized niche cells, rounded cells lacking extended filopodia, and lamellocyte induction in the absence of a normal PSC. The genes were placed into sub-groups based on their coding capacity and known genetic interactions, and the phenotypes associated with the functional knockdown of members of three of these gene regulatory networks were characterized (Tokusumi, 2012).

Previous studies have demonstrated that the PSC-specific ablation of srp function resulted in a lack of expression of the crucial Hh signaling molecule in these cells, the inactivity of the hh-GFP transgene in the niche, failure of niche cells to properly differentiate filopodial extensions, and the loss of hematopoietic progenitor maintenance coupled with the abundant production of differentiated hemocytes. Thus it was intriguing when it was observed that RNAi function knockdown of several members of the BAP chromatin-remodeling complex resulted in the identical phenotypes of lack of hh-GFP transgene expression and absence of filopodia formation in PSC cells. A convincing functional interaction was observed between srp encoding the hematopoietic GATA factor and osa encoding the DNA-binding Trithorax group protein in the inability of niche cells to express hh-GFP in double-heterozygous mutant lymph glands. Thus one working model is that the BAP chromatin-remodeling complex establishes a chromatin environment around and within the hh gene that allows access of the Srp transcriptional activator to the PSC-specific enhancer, facilitating Hh expression in these cells. It will be of interest to determine if there exists a direct physical interaction between Osa and Srp in this positive regulation of hh niche transcription and if so, what are the functional domains of the proteins essential for this critical regulatory event in progenitor cell maintenance. It is also likely that these functional interactions are important for Srp's transcriptional regulation of additional genes needed for the formation of niche cell filapodia (Tokusumi, 2012).

In this study, a total of 33 gain- or loss-of-function genetic conditions were analyzed that enhanced or eliminated the function of various positive or negatively-acting components of the insulin-like growth factor and TOR signaling pathways. A conclusion to be drawn from these analyses is that genetic conditions that have an end effect of enhancing translation activity and protein synthesis result in supernumerary PSC cell numbers in disorganized niche domains, while conditions that promote growth suppression lead to substantially reduced populations of niche cells. The same conclusion was obtained from recent studies performed by Benmimoun (2012). The Wg and Dpp signaling pathways have also been shown to be important for the formation of a PSC niche of normal size and function, and it is possible that the insulin-like growth factor and TOR signaling networks regulate the translation of one or more members of the Wg and/or Dpp pathways. These analyses have also shown that mutation of the Pten, TSC1, and TSC2 tumor suppressor genes results in severely altered blood cell homeostasis in lymph glands and in circulation, including the prolific induction of lamellocytes. A recent report demonstrated that in response to larval wasp infestation, the PSC secretes the Spitz cytokine signal, which triggers an EGFR-mediated signal transduction cascade in the generation of dpERK-positive lamellocytes in circulation. As dpERK activity is known to inhibit TSC2 function, inactivation of the TSC complex may be a downstream regulatory event leading to robust lamellocyte production in larvae in response to wasp immune challenge (Tokusumi, 2012).

To summarize, an RNAi-based loss-of-function analysis has been undertaken to identify new genes and their signaling networks vital for normal PSC niche formation and function. While information has been gained on the requirements of three such networks for PSC development and blood cell homeostasis within the lymph gland, numerous other genes have been discovered that likewise play key roles in these hematopoietic events. Their characterization is warranted as well to further enhance knowledge of genetic and molecular mechanisms at work within an accessible and easily manipulated hematopoietic progenitor niche microenvironment (Tokusumi, 2012).

serpent: Biological Overview | Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | References

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