From insects to mammals, oocytes and sperm develop within germline cysts comprising cells connected by intercellular bridges (ICBs). In numerous insects, formation of the cyst is accompanied by growth of the fusome—a membranous organelle that permeates the cyst. Fusome composition and function are best understood in Drosophila melanogaster: during oogenesis, the fusome dictates cyst topology and size and facilitates oocyte selection, while during spermatogenesis, the fusome synchronizes the cyst’s response to DNA damage. Despite its distinct and sex-specific roles during insect gametogenesis, elucidating fusome growth and inheritance in females and its structure and connectivity in males has remained challenging. Here, we take advantage of advances in three-dimensional (3D) confocal microscopy and computational image processing tools to reconstruct the topology, growth, and distribution of the fusome in both sexes. In females, our experimental findings inform a theoretical model for fusome assembly and inheritance and suggest that oocyte selection proceeds through an ‘equivalency with a bias’ mechanism. In males, we find that cell divisions can deviate from the maximally branched pattern observed in females, leading to greater topological variability. Our work consolidates existing disjointed experimental observations and contributes a readily generalizable computational approach for quantitative studies of gametogenesis within and across species.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Molecular Biology
- Computational Theory and Mathematics
- Modeling and Simulation