Cardiac ECM

Project Title: Cardiac matrix formation in Drosophila

Funding Source: DFG SFB 944, TP 7

Principle Investigator: Achim Paululat with Marcel Reinhardt

Summary: Fruit flies harbor a very simple heart that promotes circulation in the body. It is built during embryonic development and maintained functional for the whole lifetime. We are using advanced microscopy as well as genetic and molecular biology technologies to understand the assembly and the role of the extracellualr matrix that covers the heart tube. The simple anatomy of the fly heart makes it perfect model to investigate the principles of, e.g., congenital heart diseases.

The movie shows a developing fly embryo, genetically labelled with Trol::GFP. Images were captured every 3 minutes over 4 hours, then assembled into a timpe-lapse movie. Trol visualises the growing cardiac extracellular matrix, a confocal laser scanning microscope was used for capturing images. Movie and Pics by Marcel Reinhardt

We would like to understand the precise role of the cardiac extracellular matrix (ECM) and its constituents. The matrix covers the heart tube and hosts the pericardial nephrocytes. Several proteins, conserved from flies to men, built the ECM, including Collagen or Laminin. Currently we are focussing on the function of two proteins, Lonely heart (Loh), which is an anchor for matrix proteins, and Pericardin (Prc), which is a structural Collagen-like protein. Pericardin covers the heart already in the embryo. See the two pictures of Drosophila embryos with Pericardin stained in magenta. We will image the formation of the cardiac matrix life and in real time, using the newest state-of-the-art microscopes including a Zeiss LSM800 and the lattice light sheet microscope available at CellNanOs here in Osnabrück.