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Kryuchkov, M, Katanaev, VL, Enin, GA, Sergeev, A, Timchenko, AA and Serdyuk, IN (2011) Analysis of micro- and nano-structures of the corneal surface of Drosophila and its mutants by atomic force microscopy and optical diffraction. PLoS ONE 6:e22237


Drosophila melanogaster is a model organism instrumental for numerous biological studies. The compound eye of this insect consists of some eight hundred individual ommatidia or facets, ca. 15 µm in cross-section. Each ommatidium contains eighteen cells including four cone cells secreting the lens material (cornea). High-resolution imaging of the cornea of different insects has demonstrated that each lens is covered by the nipple arrays--small outgrowths of ca. 200 nm in diameter. Here we for the first time utilize atomic force microscopy (AFM) to investigate nipple arrays of the Drosophila lens, achieving an unprecedented visualization of the architecture of these nanostructures. We find by Fourier analysis that the nipple arrays of Drosophila are disordered, and that the seemingly ordered appearance is a consequence of dense packing of the nipples. In contrast, Fourier analysis confirms the visibly ordered nature of the eye microstructures--the individual lenses. This is different in the frizzled mutants of Drosophila, where both Fourier analysis and optical imaging detect disorder in lens packing. AFM reveals intercalations of the lens material between individual lenses in frizzled mutants, providing explanation for this disorder. In contrast, nanostructures of the mutant lens show the same organization as in wild-type flies. Thus, frizzled mutants display abnormal organization of the corneal micro-, but not nano-structures. At the same time, nipples of the mutant flies are shorter than those of the wild-type. We also analyze corneal surface of glossy-appearing eyes overexpressing Wingless--the lipoprotein ligand of Frizzled receptors, and find the catastrophic aberration in nipple arrays, providing experimental evidence in favor of the major anti-reflective function of these insect eye nanostructures. The combination of the easily tractable genetic model organism and robust AFM analysis represents a novel methodology to analyze development and architecture of these surface formations.


PubMed PMC3141020 Online version:10.1371/journal.pone.0022237


Animals; Cornea/metabolism; Cornea/ultrastructure; Drosophila Proteins/metabolism; Drosophila melanogaster/ultrastructure; Fourier Analysis; Frizzled Receptors/genetics; Frizzled Receptors/metabolism; Microscopy, Atomic Force/methods; Mutation/genetics; Nanostructures/ultrastructure; Optical Phenomena; Phenotype; Surface Properties; Wnt1 Protein/metabolism