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Marta Llimargas: Mechanisms of morphogenesis and organogenesis

Lab Presentation

Understanding how organs and tissues form during development is a long-standing and challenging question in biology. Only recently, the joint efforts of several scientific disciplines, such as developmental biology, cell biology, computational analysis and biophysics have started to elucidate several of the mechanisms underlying organ and tissue formation (organogenesis and morphogenesis). From comparing developmental processes occurring in different organs of different organisms it emerged that in general, these mechanisms are highly conserved, so that different species use common genetic, cellular and molecular mechanisms to form organs and tissues. However, these comparisons also indicated that the same mechanisms acting on different contexts can lead to very different outcomes. Therefore, understanding the commonalities and specificities of organogenesis and morphogenesis is an absolute requirement to anticipate organ and tissue development. The work in our lab aims to shed light into this issue by analysing several known cellular mechanisms underlying morphogenesis in different tissues. We use Drosophila melanogaster as a proved excellent animal model, taking advantage of the wide scientific background and technical tools available. We ask how the general cellular mechanisms of morphogenesis are genetically controlled, and how the genetically controlled changes in morphology and behaviour at single cell resolution contribute to tissue and organ formation. We use the formation of epithelial tissues, mainly the tracheal system (see project gallery) and of the embryonic gonad (see Sara Ricardo lab), to investigate cell migration, establishment and maintenance of tissue integrity, cell rearrangements, cell adhesion and tissue interactions, which represent common and essential cellular mechanisms to build these structures.  

Research Lines

Marta Llimargas Casanova
  • Marta Llimargas Casanova
  • Baldiri Reixac, 10-12
  • 08028 Barcelona, Spain
  • Phone: +34 93 4037066 / +34 93 4034979
  • E-mail:

Principal Investigator

Past students

  • Pilar Okenve

    PhD Student

  • Ivette Olivares

    PhD Student

  • Guillem Parés

    PhD Student

  • Barbara Rotstein

    PhD Student


  • Letizia A, Tosi S, Llimargas M.(2018) Morphogenetic movements affect local tissue organisation during embryonic Drosophila morphogenesis. Eur J Cell Biol. 2018 Mar 15. pii: S0171-9335(17)30311-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2018.03.004
  • Olivares-Castiñeira I, Llimargas M. (2017). EGFR controls Drosophila tracheal tube elongation by intracellular trafficking regulation. PLoS Genet. 2017 Jul 5;13(7):e1006882. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006882
  • Beich-Frandsen, M., Aragón, E., Llimargas, M., Benach, J., Riera, A., Pous, J. & Macias, M.J. (2015). Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 2015 Apr;71(Pt 4):844-53. doi: 10.1107/S1399004715001443
  • Moussian, B., Letizia , A., Martínez-Corrales, G., Rotstein, B., Casali, A., and Llimargas, M. (2015) Deciphering the genetic programme triggering timely and spatially-regulated chitin deposition. PLoS Genet. 2015 Jan 24;11(1):e1004939. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004939
  • Okenve-Ramos, P. and Llimargas, M. (2014) Fascin, may the Forked be with you. Fly, 8:3, 157-164, DOI:10.4161/fly.34368
  • Okenve-Ramos, P. and Llimargas, M. (2014) A role for fascin in preventing filopodia breakage in Drosophila tracheal cells. Communicative & Integrative Biology, 7:5, 1-4, DOI: 10.4161/cib.29741
  • Okenve-Ramos, P. and Llimargas, M. (2014) Fascin links Btl/FGFR signalling to the actin cytoskeleton during Drosophila tracheal morphogenesis. Development 141 (4): 929-939
  • Letizia, A., Ricardo, S., Moussian, B., Martín, N., and Llimargas, M. (2013). A functional role of the extracellular domain of Crumbs in cell architecture and apicobasal polarity. Journal of Cell Science,126 (10):    2157-2163
  • Letizia, A. and Llimargas,M. (2012). Adherens Junctions and Cadherins in Drosophila Development. in “Adherens junctions: from molecular mechanisms to tissue development and disease”. Subcell Biochem. 2012;60:251-77. Springer
  • Rotstein, B., Molnar D., Adryan, B.* and Llimargas, M.* (2011)(*Authors for correspondence). Tramtrack is genetically upstream of genes controlling tracheal tube size in Drosophila. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28985. Epub 2011 Dec 2
  • Letizia, A., Sotillos, S., Campuzano, S. and Llimargas,M. (2011). Regulated Crb accumulation controls apical constriction and invagination in Drosophila tracheal cells.. Journal of Cell Science 124 (2):240-251
  • Llimargas,M. and Casanova, J. (2010). Apical constriction and invagination: a very self-reliant couple. Developmental Biology 344 (1):4-6
  • Shaye DD, Casanova J, Llimargas M (2008). Modulation of intracellular trafficking regulates cell intercalation in the Drosophila trachea. Nat Cell Biol. 10(8):964-70
  • Araújo, S. J., Cela, C and Llimargas,M. (2007). Tramtrack regulates different morphogenetic events during Drosophila tracheal development. Development 134:3665-76
  • Cela, C and Llimargas,M. (2006). Egfr is essential for maintaining epithelial integrity during tracheal remodelling in Drosophila. Development, 133: 3115-25
  • Llimargas, M.*, Strigini, M., Katidou, M., Karagogeos, D. and Casanova, J.* (2004)(*Authors for correspondence). Lachesin is a component of a septate junction based mechanism that controls tube size and epithelial integrity in the Drosophila tracheal system. Development, 131: 181-190.
  • Llimargas, M* and Lawrence, P. A.(2001).(*Author for correspondence). Seven Wnt homologues in Drosophila: A case study of the developing trachea. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98, 14487- 14492
  • Llimargas, M. (2000). Wingless and its signalling pathway have common and separable functions during tracheal development. Development 127, 4407-4417
  • Boube, M., Llimargas, M. and Casanova, J. (2000). Cross-regulatory interactions among tracheal genes support a cooperative model for the induction of tracheal fates in the Drosophila embryo. .Mech Dev. 91, 271-278.
  • Llimargas, M. (1999). The Notch pathway helps to pattern the tips of the Drosophila tracheal branches by selecting cell fates. Development 126, 2355-2364.
  • Llimargas, M.* and Casanova, J. (1999).(*Author for correspondence). EGF signalling regulates cell invagination as well as cell migration during formation of tracheal system in Drosophila. Development Genes and Evolution 209, 174-179.  
  • Llimargas, M. and Casanova, J. (1997). ventral veinless, a POU domain transcription factor, regulates different transduction pathways required for tracheal branching in Drosophila. Development 124, 3273- 328
  • Celis, J.F*., Llimargas, M.*, and Casanova, J. (1995).(* The two authors contributed equally to the work). Ventral veinless, the gene encoding the Cf1a transcription factor, links positional information and cell differentation during embryonic and imaginal development in Drosophila melanogaster. Development 121, 3405- 3416

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Proyecto coordinado: "Mecanismos celulares necesarios para la formación de órganos durante el desarrollo embrionario de Drosophila.". Subproyecto "Análisis de los mecanismos de morfogénesis epitelial durante el desarrollo embrionario de Drosophila melanogaster ".
  • Funding Agency: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad.
  • 2013-2016
  • PI: Marta Llimargas Casanova
Project: Title: Estudio de los mecanismos de morfogénesis del sistema traqueal de Drosophila melanogaster.
  • Funding Agency: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación.
  • 01/01/2010-30/04/2013
  • PI Marta Llimargas Casanova
2009 SGR-1333
Mecanismes de tubulogènesi.
  • Funding Agency: AGAUR.
  • 01/08/2019-31/12/2013
  • PI: Marta Llimargas Casanova
“From Genes to Shape: analysis of morphogenesis in Drosophila and vertebrates.” Subproyecto “Cellular properties and morphogenesis”
  • Funding Agency: Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia.
  • 10/2007-9/12/2013
  • PI: Dr. G. Morata. Dr. J. Casanova Roca

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