Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Egged On

Molecular mechanisms underlying basement membrane mechanical properties

17 June 2022

Egged On

Female fruit flies (Drosophila) lay up to 100 eggs per day. Each starts off round, then forms into – well, an egg shape – in a carefully timed process. There are parallels here with how human tissues mature, and Drosophila often share these clues with developmental biologists. Here they study the basement membrane – a sort of molecular corset that runs along the inside of the chamber (highlighted in red), squeezing the egg into shape with help from actin fibres (blue). Researchers know the basement membrane contains molecules of perlecan, collagen, laminin and nidogen but little is known about how they control these shape-shifting forces. Using genetic engineering to ‘knock down’ their effects, the team find different combinations of the four molecules help in ‘elongating’ the chamber, and keeping it from bursting while keeping the membrane itself rigid. Future research may look for similar chemical combinations in basement membranes shaping human tissues and organs.

Written by John Ankers

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