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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Spatial discontinuity of Optomotor-blind expression in the Drosophila wing imaginal disc disrupts epithelial architecture and promotes cell sorting

Jie Shen123, Christian Dahmann3 and Gert O Pflugfelder2*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept of Entomology, China Agricultural University, 100094 Beijing, China

2 Institute of Genetics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, 55128 Mainz, Germany

3 Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, 01307 Dresden, Germany

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:23  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-23

Published: 23 February 2010



Decapentaplegic (Dpp) is one of the best characterized morphogens, required for dorso-ventral patterning of the Drosophila embryo and for anterior-posterior (A/P) patterning of the wing imaginal disc. In the larval wing pouch, the Dpp target gene optomotor-blind (omb) is generally assumed to be expressed in a step function above a certain threshold of Dpp signaling activity.


We show that the transcription factor Omb forms, in fact, a symmetrical gradient on both sides of the A/P compartment boundary. Disruptions of the Omb gradient lead to a re-organization of the epithelial cytoskeleton and to a retraction of cells toward the basal membrane suggesting that the Omb gradient is required for correct epithelial morphology. Moreover, by analysing the shape of omb gain- and loss-of-function clones, we find that Omb promotes cell sorting along the A/P axis in a concentration-dependent manner.


Our findings show that Omb distribution in the wing imaginal disc is described by a gradient rather than a step function. Graded Omb expression is necessary for normal cell morphogenesis and cell affinity and sharp spatial discontinuities must be avoided to allow normal wing development.