“Highlights” calls attention to exciting advances in developmental biology that have recently been reported in Developmental Dynamics. Development is a broad field encompassing many important areas. To reflect this fact, the section spotlights significant discoveries that occur across the entire spectrum of developmental events and problems: from new experimental approaches, to novel interpretations of results, to noteworthy findings utilizing different developmental organisms.
Sensing success (Pokes, Sunburn, and Hot Sauce: Drosophila as an Emerging Model for the Biology of Nociception by Seol Hee Im and Michael J. Galko, Dev Dyn 241:16–26) “Pokes, Sunburns, and Hot Sauce” is not about a junket to Latin America, but rather documents the trajectory of research in Drosophila nociception, the sensory perception of noxious stimuli. The carefully crafted review not only relays take home messages, but also takes the reader through the methodologies used in landmark studies, and the rationales behind them. In Drosophila larvae, class IV Md neurons are dedicated to nociception but perceive more than one nociceptive modality (touch, heat, etc.). Threading together individual stories, the authors illustrate that the basic molecular mechanisms of Drosophila nociception are evolutionarily conserved, and like in vertebrates, elicits a complex response. For example, nociceptive behaviors sensitize in the presence of tissue damage. The work shows how the genetically tractable organism has been invaluable in pushing the field forward, and highlights its promise for addressing related outstanding questions such as mechanisms of information processing and sensitization, and toward an understanding the transition from acute to chronic pain.
Flying through expression data (Comparison of Embryonic Expression Within Multigene Families Using the FlyExpress Discovery Platform Reveals More Spatial Than Temporal Divergence by Charlotte E. Konikoff, Timothy L. Karr, Michael McCutchan, Stuart J. Newfeld, and Sudhir Kumar, Dev Dyn 241:150–160) Comparing expression patterns can be a useful way to predict gene interactions and place genes within a molecular pathway. The challenge facing scientists is how to best slash through thousands of existing pictures to extract potentially useful information. Designed to do the heavy lifting for you, FlyExpress (www.flyexpress.net, and FlyExpress app for iPhone) enables computerized comparative analysis of its digital library with over 100,000 standardized Drosophila embryonic expression patterns culled from the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project (BDGP), Fly-FISH, and Pubmed databases. To start, the user queries by gene, keyword, or database image, then chooses a representative pattern to search against. The expression pattern is then transformed to three binary black/white images of varying intensity. After selecting the spatial profile that best highlights regions of interest, the platform displays a Discovery Matrix containing genes with similar expression patterns. Next to each comparison is listed the degree of overlap, statistical significance of the match, available text-based descriptions of the pattern, and other useful information. From here, the scientist uses his/her own discretion to distinguish genuine staining from noise. The authors show that when conducting an image-based search for overlapping expression patterns, FlyExpress identifies fewer, but more accurate results than text based searches. Drosophila molecular biologists now have another weapon to add to their arsenal.