Research - Institute of Genetics - Developmental Genetics Unit - Laboratory of Drosophila Germ Cell Differentiation

scientific adviser

Ferenc JANKOVICS senior research associate
Melinda BENCE research associate
Zsanett TAKÁCS junior research associate


Embryonic development is a highly dynamic process which, at times, involves astonishingly rapid and coordinated cell and tissue movements. Recently, the combination of advanced in vivo fluorescent cell-labeling techniques and novel video microscopy methods enabled the study of embryogenesis with an accuracy never seen before and became the most powerful tool used in developmental genetics.

In Drosophila, the very first cell differentiation process is the dichotomy of the somatic and germ cell lineage. The primordial germ cells bud off from the posterior pole of the embryo within a few minutes and form a separate cluster of cells. During the subsequent steps of embryogenesis, primordial germ cells reach the site of gonad formation through a highly reproducible and coordinated series of passive and active movements. By combining genetic and genomic approaches with video microscopy-based phenotypic analysis, we identified novel genes involved in germ line determination or in the dynamics of germ cell migration.

We achieved a detailed genetic and cell biological analysis of some of the novel germ cell regulators. Also, using the method of video microscopy, we described a novel dynamic intra nuclear localization of the germ cell-enriched protein, Moesin. We described the function of the feo, pebble, and Mei-P-26 genes in division, migration and survival of the germ cells, respectively. We identified and described a non-protein-coding miR-282 gene and described its role in the regulation of female fertility.

One of the most studied tissue movements of Drosophila embryogenesis is the dorsal closure when the left and right parts of the dorsal epithelial monolayer approach the midline and finally close the dorsal hole. To explore the genetic regulation of dorsal closure, we carried out a large-scale RNA interference-based screen in combination with in vivo time-lapse microscopy and identified several genes essential for the closure or affecting its dynamics. We showed that the cytoskeletal regulators pebble and short stop are essential for protrusion formation at the leading edge of the migrating epithelial cells and for the final knitting of the epithelial edges, respectively.

Figure 1. Germ cells (in red) on the move toward the site of gonad formation

Selected publications

Vilmos P, Kristó I, Szikora S, Jankovics F, Lukácsovich T, Kari B, Erdélyi M The actin-binding ERM protein Moesin directly regulates spindle assembly and function during mitosis CELL BIOLOGY INTERNATIONAL 40:(6) pp. 696-707. (2016)

Horvath A, Batki J, Henn L, Lukacsovich T, Rona G, Erdelyi M, Vertessy BG dUTPase expression correlates with cell division potential in Drosophila melanogaster. FEBS JOURNAL 282:(10) pp. 1998-2013. (2015)

Jankovics F, Henn L, Bujna A, Vilmos P, Spirohn K, Boutros M, Erdelyi M Functional analysis of the Drosophila embryonic germ cell transcriptome by RNA interference. PLOS ONE 9:(6) Paper e98579. 12 p. (2014)

Vilmos P, Bujna A, Szuperak M, Havelda Z, Varallyay E, Szabad J, Kucerova L, Somogyi K, Kristo I, Lukacsovich T, Jankovics F, Henn L, Erdelyi M Viability, Longevity, and Egg Production of Drosophila melanogaster are Regulated by the miR-282 microRNA. GENETICS 195:(2) pp. 469-480. (2013)

Muha V, Horvath A, Bekesi A, Pukancsik M, Hodoscsek B, Merenyi G, Rona G, Batki J, Kiss I, Jankovics F, Vilmos P, Erdelyi M, Vertessy BG Uracil-Containing DNA in Drosophila: Stability, Stage-Specific Accumulation, and Developmental Involvement PLOS GENETICS 8:(6) Paper e1002738. 9 p. (2012)

Jankovics F, Henn L, Bujna A, Vilmos P, Kiss N, Erdelyi M A Functional Genomic Screen Combined with Time-Lapse Microscopy Uncovers a Novel Set of Genes Involved in Dorsal Closure of Drosophila Embryos PLOS ONE 6:(7) p. 10.1371/journal.pone.0022229. (2011)

Vilmos P, Jankovics F, Szathmari M, Lukacsovich T, Henn L, Erdelyi M Live imaging reveals that the Drosophila actin-binding ERM protein, moesin, co-localizes with the mitotic spindle EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY 88:(10) pp. 609-619. (2009)

Szuperak M, Zvara A, Erdelyi M Identification of germ plasm-enriched mRNAs in Drosophila melanogaster by the cDNA microarray technique GENE EXPRESSION PATTERNS 5: pp. 717-723. (2005)

JANKOVICS F, SINKA R, LUKACSOVICH T, ERDELYI M MOESIN Crosslinks Actin and Cell Membrane in Drosophila Oocytes and Is Required for OSKAR Anchoring CURRENT BIOLOGY 12: pp. 2060-2065. (2002)

SINKA R, JANKOVICS F, SOMOGYI K, SZLANKA T, LUKACSOVICH T, ERDELYI M poirot, a new regulatory gene of Drosophila oskar acts at the level of the short Oskar protein isoform DEVELOPMENT 129: pp. 3469-3478. (2002)