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In Drosophila melanogaster, combinatorial activities of four death genes, head involution defective (hid), reaper (rpr), grim, and sickle (skl), have been known to play crucial roles in the developmentally regulated programmed cell death (PCD) of various tissues. However, different expression patterns of the death genes also suggest distinct functions played by each. During early metamorphosis, a great number of larval neurons unfit for adult life style are removed by PCD. Among them are eight pairs of corazonin-expressing larval peptidergic neurons in the ventral nerve cord (vCrz). To reveal death genes responsible for the PCD of vCrz neurons, we examined extant and recently available mutations as well as RNA interference that disrupt functions of single or multiple death genes. We found grim as a chief proapoptotic gene and skl and rpr as minor ones. The function of grim is also required for PCD of the mitotic sibling cells of the vCrz neuronal precursors (EW3-sib) during embryonic neurogenesis. An intergenic region between grim and rpr, which, it has been suggested, may enhance expression of three death genes in embryonic neuroblasts, appears to play a role for the vCrz PCD, but not for the EW3-sib cell death. The death of vCrz neurons and EW3-sib is triggered by ecdysone and the Notch signaling pathway, respectively, suggesting distinct regulatory mechanisms of grim expression in a cell- and developmental stage-specific manner.

doi: 10.1242/bio.20133384


This article has been funded by the University of Tennessee's Open Publishing Support Fund.

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