November 9, 2015

Nanobodies from Camels Enable the Study of Organ Growth

Drosophila wing size control depends on the spreading of the Dpp morphogen.
(Image: University of Basel, Biozentrum)

(November 9, 2015)  Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have developed a new technique using nanobodies. Employing the so-called “Morphotrap”, the distribution of the morphogen Dpp, which plays an important role in wing development, could be selectively manipulated and analyzed for the first time in the fruit fly. In the future, this tool may be applied for many further investigations of organ growth. The results of the study have been published in the current issue of “Nature”.

The two basic processes that control organ development are the regulation of growth and of the spatial pattern. The research group of Prof. Markus Affolter at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has now developed a method named “Morphotrap” to study wing development in the fruit fly.

Their results demonstrate that the signaling molecule Dpp, a so-called morphogen, influences growth in the center of the wing imaginal disc but not in the peripheral regions. It is the first time that an anti-GFP nanobody has been successfully employed in such an investigation. This tool also holds promise for future studies on organ development.

The new method “Morphotrap”: Nanobodies to study growth

Nanobodies are small antibody fragments derived from camels. They enable the research team of Markus Affolter to manipulate molecules in the living organism. The so-called “Morphotrap” method employs anti-GFP nanobodies. Using these Nanobodies, the functions of GFP-tagged proteins in living organisms can be studied faster and more effectively than by conventional methods.