Genetics of Stress-Induced Responses in Drosophila
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Apoptosis is a highly conserved process responsible for elimination of cells during normal development and after cellular damage. Apical caspases that initiate caspase cascades are stimulated upon interaction with adaptor molecules. The Drosophila adaptor protein Dark, a homolog of nematode Ced-4 and mammalian Apaf-1, regulates the apical caspase Dronc, through interactions involving respective caspase recruitment domains (CARD). Dronc is the only caspase in the fly genome with a caspase recruitment domain. Here I pursue functional characterization of dronc and dark animals especially to find out whether they are required for all programmed cell death and whether they have distinct functions. dronc mutants have extensive hyperplasia of hematopoietic tissues and adult structures lacking dronc are disrupted for fine patterning. In diverse models of metabolic injury, dronc- cells are completely insensitive to induction of cell killing. I also show the generation and functional characterization of dark null mutant animals. Using in vivo and ex vivo assays, I demonstrate a global apoptogenic requirement for dark and show that a required focus of dark- organismal lethality maps to the central nervous system. Finally I show functional similarities of dronc and dark null mutants by a diverse set of experiments. Together these findings illustrate broad requirements for Dark and Dronc in adaptive responses during stress-induced apoptosis and in normal cell death. Treatment of cells with DNA-damaging agents upregulates the transcription of many genes, many of which are not functionally characterized. In a series of independent studies I characterize an ionizing radiation (IR)-induced gene, CG17836, designated as xrp1. Xrp1 is robustly responsive to IR, and it is a nuclear protein with DNA-binding activity as inferred from domain structure. I have characterized two different loss-of-function mutants of xrp1. In a loss-of-heterozygosity (LOH) assay xrp1 mutant animals display higher genomic instability than wild types after IR challenge. Even though xrp1 is not required for apoptosis or cell cycle arrest after IR treatment in animals, surprisingly, its overexpression in cell culture prevents cell proliferation. Thus, Xrp1 might maintain genomic stability by modulating cell cycle checkpoints upon IR exposure.