UCLA Neuroscience Program Ph.D. Admissions Neuroscience Faculty UCLA and Beyond  

Volker Hartenstein
Brain Development in Drosophila

Email Address:  volkerh@mcdb.ucla.edu
Home Page: http://www.mcdb.ucla.edu/Research/Hartenstein

Work Address:
Terasaki LSB

Phone Numbers:
(310) 206-7376 Laboratory
(310) 206-7523 Office

Selected Publications:

Younossi-Hartenstein, A Hartenstein, V The embryonic development of the polyclad flatworm Imogine mcgrathi. Development genes and evolution. . 2000; 210(8-9): 383-98.
Hartenstein, V Ehlers, U The embryonic development of the rhabdocoel flatworm Mesostoma lingua (Abildgaard, 1789). Development genes and evolution. . 2000; 210(8-9): 399-415.
Noveen, A., Daniel, A., Hartenstein, V. The role of eyeless in the embryonic development of the Drosophila mushroom body. Development 2000; 127: 3475-3488.
Lebestky, T Chang, T Hartenstein, V Banerjee, U Specification of Drosophila hematopoietic lineage by conserved transcription factors. Science. . 2000; 288(5463): 146-9.
Younossi-Hartenstein, A Ehlers, U Hartenstein, V Embryonic development of the nervous system of the rhabdocoel flatworm Mesostoma lingua (Abilgaard, 1789). The Journal of comparative neurology. . 2000; 416(4): 461-74.
Daniel, A Dumstrei, K Lengyel, JA Hartenstein, V The control of cell fate in the embryonic visual system by atonal, tailless and EGFR signaling. Development (Cambridge, England) . 1999; 126(13): 2945-54.
Haag, T., Prtina, N., Lekven, A.C., Hartenstein, V. Discrete steps in the morphogenesis of the Drosophila heart require faint sausage, shotgun/ DE-cadherin, and laminin A. Developmental Biology 1999; 208: 56-69.
Nassif, C Noveen, A Hartenstein, V Embryonic development of the Drosophila brain. I. Pattern of pioneer tracts. The Journal of comparative neurology. . 1998; 402(1): 10-31.
Hartenstein, V Nassif, C Lekven, A Embryonic development of the Drosophila brain. II. Pattern of glial cells. The Journal of comparative neurology. . 1998; 402(1): 32-47.
Dumstrei, K., Nassif, C., Abboud, G., Aryai, A., Aryai, AR, Hartenstein, V. EGFR signaling is required for the differentation and maintenance of neural progenitors along the dorsal midline of the Drosophila embryonic head. Development 1998; 125: 3417- 3426.
Lekven, A., Tepass, U., Keshmeshian, M., Hartenstein, V faint sausage encodes a novel member of the Ig superfamily required for cell movement and axonal pathfinding in the Drosophila nervous system. Development 1998; 125: 2747- 2758.
Nassif, C Daniel, A Lengyel, JA Hartenstein, V The role of morphogenetic cell death during Drosophila embryonic head development. Developmental biology. . 1998; 197(2): 170-86.
Campos-Ortega, J.A., Hartenstein, V. The Embryonic Development of Drosophila melanogaster. 1997; .
Younossi-Hartenstein, A., Nassif, C. and Hartenstein, V. Early neurogenesis of the Drosophila brain. J. Comp. Neur 1996; 370: 313-329.
Tepass, U., Gruszynski-de Feo, E., Haag, T.A., Omaryar, L., Torok, T., and Hartenstein, V. Shotgun encodes Drosophilia E-Cadherin and is preferentially required during cell rearrangement in the neuroectoderm and other morphogenetically active epithelia. Genes & Dev 1996; 10: 672-685.
Hartenstein, V., Lee, A., and Toga, A.W. Graphic digital database of Drosophila embryogenesis. Trends in Genetics 1995; 11: 51-58.
Research Interest:

My lab studies brain development in the genetic model system, Drosophila melanogaster. We have a comparative outlook and try to establish similarities and differences in the genetic mechanisms that operate in the developing nervous system in Drosophila and vertebrates. To that end, we compare the patterns in which homologous genes specific for certain brain parts are expressed in fruit flies and vertebrate embryos. We have also begun to study nervous system development in a primitive invertebrate, the flatworm Macrostomum, which has simple and conserved features which are believed to be similar to those of the common ancestor of all bilaterian animals (which include insects and vertebrates). Specific lines of research: 1. Analysis and 3D modeling of the Drosophila brain A large number of molecular markers for specific brain parts, some of them usable in living animals, have become available. We use these markers to model the structure of the normal brain at a high level of resolution. This work is required in order to embark on a genetic analysis, in which structural defects following the knock-out or ectopic expression of a gene are evaluated. Only detailed knowledge of the normal structure will enable us and others to interpret these defects. Secondly, a three dimensional digital model will serve as an "atlas model? in which gene expression patterns will be deposited. We are collaborating with the Berkeley Drosophila Genome project (BDGP) in the analysis and documentation of developmentally regulated genes. 2. The role of cadherin adhesion molecules in brain development From a structural point of view, brain development consists in the sum total of all of the neurons and glial cells sending out processes and connecting to each other. At the beginning, neurons are undifferentiated "spheres? located at a given location, and equipped with a certain set of genes. Both location and genetic equipment then determine how the neuron, or glia, will differentiate. The initial step of differentiation is that cells send out short, unbranched axons. After that, axons branch at specific points. Branches grow in a certain geometry, and establish connections (synapses) with each other. Understanding the geometry and wiring of the brain boils down to the questions: (i) where and when do branches form; (ii) what is the shape of branches; (iii) how do branches connect. In all of these steps, adhesion molecules play an important role. They allow cells to interact, and largely influence the point and shape of branching. We are particularly interested in a class of adhesion molecules, the cadherins, of which about 18 exist in the Drosophila genome. The facts that the Drosophila larval brain is small (around 1000 differentiated neurons) and that numerous powerful tools to address gene function in this organism exist makes this system ideally suited for the genetic study of brain development. 3. The development of the larval visual and neuroendocrine system in Drosophila The Drosophila larva has a miniature eye, consisting of twelve light sensitive neurons, which target an even smaller number of neurons in the central brain and control larval behavior in a simple but effective manner, in the sense that larvae avoid light and move away from it. The neuroendocrine system is formed by an equally small number of elements, consisting of neurosecretory cells in the brain projecting their axons to an endocrine gland. Along with a group of peripheral neurons associated with the gut, the neuroendocrine system controls feeding behavior and growth of the larva. Despite the enormous difference in size between a fly visual/neuroendocrine systems and their counterparts in vertebrates, these systems function and develop along surprisingly similar lines. For example, the early precursors of these organs obtain similar positions in the early 'fatemap' of fly and vertebrate embryos. Furthermore, conserved transcription factors and signaling pathways direct their development. We are studying the steps involved in the development of the visual and neuroendocrine system in the Drosophila embryo, and identify genes and signaling pathways involved in this process. 4. Formation of the Drosophila vascular system and blood Over recent years our lab collaborates with Dr.U. Banerjee (UCLA, Dept. MCD Biology) in the study of the Drosophila blood system. Our main focus is to identify the origin of blood and blood vessel cells (which we could show have a common or igin, just as in vertebrates!), to learn about the transcriptional regulators determining the fate of these cells, and the signaling pathways acting during their development. Insects have a simple, capillary-like ?\200\234heart?\200\235 that produces a directed flow of the body fluid (?\200\234blood?\200\235) through the body. Cellular components of the blood, called hemocytes, fall into only two main classes that correspond to subsets of white blood cells in vertebrates. Both cells of the heart and the blood are derived from a small domain within the mesoderm (?\200\234cardiogenic mesoderm?\200\235) of the embryo. Our data so far support the idea that numerous similarities exist between Drosophila and vertebrates in regard to the molecular mechanism that specifies where the cardiogenic mesoderm appears, and how it splits up into different lineages (heart cells, blood cells and others) that express very different fates. 5. Brain development in Macrostomum, a simple bilaterian animal Our comparisons of brain development between fruit flies and vertebrates have revealed many stunning similarities, both in the genes controlling aspects of nerve cell fate and differentiation, and in the morphological structures that precede the mature brain in early embryos. This leads us (and, by now, many other researchers in the field) to the conclusion that the last common ancestor of insects and vertebrates, the so called bilaterian ancestor or ?\200\234Urbilateria?\200\231, must have already possessed these genes, and a nervous system that, even if simple, cont ained structures that still persist in all of its descendants to the present day. It would be very informative if we could study the brain of the bilaterian ancestor. Since we can?\200\231t do that (ancestors are, by definition, extinct) the next best thing is to look among still living animals for those which may have retain ed many characteristics of the ancestor. In other words: there exist today the ?\200\234highly derived?\200\235 animal groups, like insects or vertebrates, whose body structure has become very elaborate and complicated, next to ?\200\234primitive?\200\235 groups whose body (according to what we know today) has not changed as much. One might call these groups ?\200\234living fossils?\200\235. Some groups of flatworms, including the genus Macrostomum that we raise in our lab, belong to this latter category. We are stu dying normal brain development in this system, for which little information existed previously. In addition, we have generated an EST project, isolating several thousand genes from Macrostomum and assembling them into a web-based database. Among these genes are many that we know to play a role in brain development in insects and vertebrates. The next step is to analyze the expression pattern of these genes in Macrostomum embryos. Functional studies are also possible, using an approach called ?\200\234RNA interference?\200\235 (RNAi). In this approach, fragments of a d ouble-stranded RNA of a given gene are generated and injected into embryos, where they interfere with the translation of the corresponding gene.