Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Michael J. Galko, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andreas Bergmann, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Howard Gutstein, M.D.

Committee Member

Roger Janz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edgar T. Walters, Ph.D.


Mounting an effective response to tissue damage requires a concerted effort from a number of systems, including both the immune and nervous systems. Immune-responsive blood cells fight infection and clear debris from damaged tissues, and specialized pain receptors become hypersensitive to promote behavior that protects the damaged area while it heals. To uncover the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying these processes, we have developed a genetically tractable invertebrate model of damage-induced inflammation and pain hypersensitivity using Drosophila larvae.

To study wound-induced inflammation, we generated transgenic larvae with fluorescent epidermal cells and blood cells (hemocytes). Using live imaging, we monitored the circulatory dynamics of hemocytes and the methods by which they accumulate at epidermal wounds. We found that circulating hemocytes attach to wound sites directly from circulation, a mechanism once thought to work exclusively in species with a closed circulatory system.

To study damage-induced pain hypersensitivity, we developed a “sunburn assay” and found that larvae have a lowered pain threshold (allodynia) and an exaggerated response to noxious stimuli (hyperalgesia) following UV damage. We screened for genes required for hypersensitivity in pain receptors (nociceptors), and discovered a number of novel mediators that have well conserved mammalian homologs.

Together, these results help us to understand how various cell types in the immune and nervous systems both detect and respond to tissue damage.


Drosophila, nociception, inflammation, damage, allodynia, hyperalgesia, ultraviolet