Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 12th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Fly Eye

Role of cell junctions in fly eye development – insights for diseases linked to faulty epithelial cell junctions

01 May 2023

Fly Eye

Flies are a nuisance, but they’re also an unexpected source of beauty. Here, we see the hexagonal units, called ommatidia, forming the eye in a fruit fly larva. Their precise honeycomb arrangement is vital for the eye disc to develop into a working adult eye. Scientists have studied this structure for over a century, making profound discoveries that carry through to human biology. Now, researchers have uncovered how the eye disc's pattern is maintained. An eye disc contains two layers of cells: retinal (pink and blue) and peripodal (blue). Each cell contains protein structures called adherens junctions (AJs), which connect the protein fibres of two cells' internal skeletons, like carabiners linking climbing ropes. Peripodal cells with faulty AJs pull on the retinal layer, disrupting the shape of the eye. Further understanding this process in fruit flies could help us tackle human diseases linked to faulty AJs, from inflammatory bowel disease to cancer.

Written by Henry Stennett

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