Research Group of Dr Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology

Research Group of Dr Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology

Dr Carl-Philipp Heisenberg is a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. His team of 11 researchers is working on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of zebrafish gastrulation movements.

Gastrulation is a complex and coordinated series of cellular movements that occurs at the end of cleavage during the embryonic development of most animals. The details vary from species to species, but result in the unstructured blastula rearranging to form an embryo with a distinct head-to-tail, left-to-right and bottom-up morphology. Formation of the three primary germ layers, ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm also occurs. During the process of gastrulation progenitor cells are brought into the positions from where they later will form more complex tissues and organs. The mechanisms that establish cell fates during gastrulation are generally understood. Much less has been learned about the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying gastrulation movements and this is the area that Carl-Philipp’s group is concentrating on.

Carl-Philipp graduated from Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität München in 1992. After spending a year in Martinsried and a year in Cambridge , he completed his PhD at Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen in 1996. He then moved to London under the direction of Professor Steve Wilson (our Laboratory of the Month for December 2005), returning to Germany in 2000 to take up his current post as group leader.

The group began using Volocity in their work in 2003 and the system includes Volocity Visualization and Classification. Carl-Philipp writes "Volocity has helped us enormously to visualize and analyze cellular rearrangements during zebrafish gastrulation in three dimensions over time. It also allows us to easily create movies of our time-lapse work which means that we can share our results with other researchers as well as publish them on the web"

The team has made significant progress towards understanding the role of the Wnt11 signaling protein, which plays a central role in tissue morphogenesis during gastrulation. A recent publication* by team member Ulrich et al was chosen by the "Faculty of 1000" as a "Must Read” paper for its important new findings. Volocity was used in the experiments to analyze and quantify confocal images and create movies for the publication. For more details about Carl-Philipp’s work please visit his web site.

Figure 1. Cell Movements within the Axial Germ Ring (Shield) at the Onset of Gastrulation

Lateral views of the shield region of a wild-type (A and B) and slb/wnt11 mutant embryo (D and E) at 60% epiboly (A and D) and 1.5 hr later (B and E). Single hypoblast and epiblast cells were labeled in red and green, respectively. Epiblast and hypoblast cells were identified by their different net movement and cell morphology (Montero et al., 2005). Inlets in (A) and (B) show schematic representations of cell movements within the shield. EVL, enveloping layer; Epi, epiblast; Hyp, hypoblast; YSL, yolk syncytial layer. The scale bar represents 20 µm.

* Reprinted from Wnt11 Functions in Gastrulation by Controlling Cell Cohesion through Rab5c and E-Cadherin
Florian Ulrich, Michael Krieg, Eva-Maria Schötz, Vinzenz Link, Irinka Castanon, Viktor Schnabel,
Anna Taubenberger, Daniel Mueller, Pierre-Henri Puech, and Carl-Philipp Heisenberg
Developmental Cell 9: 555–564. October 2005, with permission from Elsevier