Any organism more complex than a single-celled amoeba faces a challenge – how to grow from a single cell to a more complicated creation in an organised way. These neat ovals are fruit fly embryos, stained to show the activity patterns of a range of different genes that are important in early development. These tightly-controlled stripes set out the body plan for the developing fly, defining head from tail and laying out the different sections of the animal. But things can go wrong. The top row are normal fly embryos, while the bottom row all carry a fault in a gene called brakeless (also known by the evocative names “scribbler” and “master of thick veins”). The patterns of gene activity are subtly shifted and embryos lacking brakeless grow up to be stubby and deformed, revealing how the complex interplay between different genes helps to lay down the instructions for building life.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.