Pavel Tomancak

Pavel Tomancak studied Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. He then did his PhD at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in the field of Drosophila developmental genetics. During his post-doctoral time at the University of California in Berkeley at the laboratory of Gerald M. Rubin, he established image-based genome-scale resources for patterns of gene expression in Drosophila embryos. Since 2005 he leads an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden where he became senior research group leader in 2013.

His laboratory continues to study patterns of gene expression during development by combining molecular, imaging and image analysis techniques. The group has lead a significant technological development aiming towards more complete quantitative description of gene expression patterns using light sheet microscopy. The emphasis on open access resulted in establishment of major resources such as OpenSPIM and Fiji. The Tomancak lab is expanding the systematic analysis of gene expression patterns to other Drosophila tissues and employing the comparative approach in other invertebrate species to study the evolution of early development.


A new force awakens: comparative approach to tissue morphogenesis in insects

During gastrulation, physical forces reshape the simple embryonic tissue to form a complex body plan of multicellular organisms. These forces often cause large-scale asymmetric movements of the embryonic tissue. In many embryos, the tissue undergoing gastrulation movements is surrounded by a rigid protective shell. While it is well recognized that gastrulation movements depend on forces generated by tissue-intrinsic contractility, it is not known if interactions between the tissue and the protective shell provide additional forces that impact gastrulation. Our recent work has shown that a particular part of the blastoderm tissue of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum tightly adheres in a temporally coordinated manner to the vitelline envelope surrounding the embryo. This attachment generates an additional force that counteracts the tissue-intrinsic contractile forces to create asymmetric tissue movements. Furthermore, this localized attachment is mediated by a specific integrin, and its knock-down leads to a gastrulation phenotype consistent with complete loss of attachment. Moreover, analysis of another integrin in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster suggests that gastrulation in this organism also relies on adhesion between the blastoderm and the vitelline envelope. Together, our findings reveal a conserved mechanism whereby the spatiotemporal pattern of tissue adhesion to the vitelline envelope provides controllable counter-forces that shape gastrulation movements in insects. It also provides a new perspective on evolution of early gastrulation processes impacted by patterned contacts with the constraining extra-embryonic envelopes.”


Münster S., Jain A., Mietke A., Pavlopoulos A., Grill S.W., Tomancak P. (2019) Attachment of the blastoderm to the vitelline envelope impacts gastrulation of insects bioRxiv Nature Vol 568(7751)