Orb and a long poly(A) tail are required for efficient oskar translation at the posterior pole of the Drosophila oocyte.
During Drosophila oogenesis, the posterior determinant, Oskar, is tightly localized at the posterior pole of the oocyte. The exclusive accumulation of Oskar at this site is ensured by localization-dependent translation of oskar mRNA: translation of oskar mRNA is repressed during transport and activated upon localization at the posterior cortex. Previous studies have suggested that oskar translation is poly(A)-independent. We show that a long poly(A) tail is required for efficient oskar translation, both in vivo and in vitro, but is not sufficient to overcome BRE-mediated repression. Moreover, we show that accumulation of Oskar activity requires the Drosophila homolog of Cytoplasmic Polyadenylation Element Binding protein (CPEB), Orb. As posterior localization of oskar mRNA is an essential prerequisite for its translation, it was critical to identify an allele of orb that does localize oskar mRNA to the posterior pole of the oocyte. We show that flies bearing the weak mutation orb(mel) localize oskar transcripts with a shortened poly(A) that fails to enhance oskar translation, resulting in reduced Oskar levels and posterior patterning defects. We conclude that Orb-mediated cytoplasmic polyadenylation stimulates oskar translation to achieve the high levels of Oskar protein necessary for posterior patterning and germline differentiation.