Identification of essential apoptotic genes in Drosophila

Dongbin Xu, The University of Texas Grad. Sch. of Biomed. Sci. at Houston


Apoptosis is a normal physiological cell suicide process which is essential for tissue homeostasis and normal development of metazoans. Misregulation of apoptosis is associated with many developmental defects and human diseases. The genes involved in the regulation and execution of apoptosis are highly conserved in humans and flies. Caspases are the executioners of cell suicide. Because of the unavailability of specific fly mutants, the developmental function of many caspase genes and genetic relationship between caspases and apoptotic components were undefined in Drosophila. We isolated several mutant alleles of the initiator caspase gene dronc, the effector casase drICE, and the Mediator component Cyclin C from the GMR-hid eyFLP/FRT screens which is designed to isolate mutants of recessive cell death genes in Drosophila melanogaster. Characterization of these mutants defined that they are essential for developmental cell death in Drosophila. dronc is required for most, but not all, cell death in Drosophila. drICE is required for apoptosis in many cells and it shares redundancy with another effector caspase gene, dcp-1, in a subset of cells in Drosophila. The genetic relationship between caspases and other apoptotic components was established through mutant analysis. We found that the pro-apoptotic protein Hid induces transcription of the initiator caspase gene dronc and the GMR-induced dronc transcripts are dependent on activated effector casapses, revealing a novel regulatory mechanism to promote caspase activity in Drosophila. Cyclin C and its kinase partner Cdk8 are required for prompt transcriptional induction of dronc in cell killing contexts. In short, we define the essential pro-apoptoic function of dronc, drICE, and Cyclin C in Drosophila and reveal a novel mechanism for regulation of dronc transcription. In the long run, these studies will help us decipher the complicated regulatory mechanism of cell death in humans. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Genetics

Recommended Citation

Xu, Dongbin, "Identification of essential apoptotic genes in Drosophila" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3367972.