Biochemical and genetic interactions between Drosophila caspases and the proapoptotic genes rpr, hid, and grim.
In Drosophila melanogaster, the induction of apoptosis requires three closely linked genes, reaper (rpr), head involution defective (hid), and grim. The products of these genes induce apoptosis by activating a caspase pathway. Two very similar Drosophila caspases, DCP-1 and drICE, have been previously identified. We now show that DCP-1 has a substrate specificity that is remarkably similar to those of human caspase 3 and Caenorhabditis elegans CED-3, suggesting that DCP-1 is a death effector caspase. drICE and DCP-1 have similar yet different enzymatic specificities. Although expression of either in cultured cells induces apoptosis, neither protein was able to induce DNA fragmentation in Drosophila SL2 cells. Ectopic expression of a truncated form of dcp-1 (DeltaN-dcp-1) in the developing Drosophila retina under an eye-specific promoter resulted in a small and rough eye phenotype, whereas expression of the full-length dcp-1 (fl-dcp-1) had little effect. On the other hand, expression of either full-length drICE (fl-drICE) or truncated drICE (DeltaN-drICE) in the retina showed no obvious eye phenotype. Although active DCP-1 protein cleaves full-length DCP-1 and full-length drICE in vitro, GMR-DeltaN-dcp-1 did not enhance the eye phenotype of GMR-fl-dcp-1 or GMR-fl-drICE flies. Significantly, GMR-rpr and GMR-grim, but not GMR-hid, dramatically enhanced the eye phenotype of GMR-fl-dcp-1 flies. These results indicate that Reaper and Grim, but not HID, can activate DCP-1 in vivo.
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