Analysis of the ABC transporter CG31731 in engulfment during programmed cell death in the Drosophila melanogaster ovary
Santoso, Clarissa Stephanie
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Programmed cell death (PCD) is an essential biological process in animal development and tissue homeostasis that is necessary to ensure the physiological well-being of the organism. During PCD, phagocytes facilitate the selective removal of excess, damaged, and potentially deleterious cells, in a multi-step engulfment process. Genetic studies in Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, and mammals have identified two evolutionarily conserved signal transduction pathways that act redundantly to regulate engulfment: the CED-1/-6/-7 and CED-2/-5/-12 pathways. Of these cell death (CED) proteins, the ABC transporter CED-7 is the only protein reported to be required in both the engulfing cell and the dying cell. However, its function in the cell death process remains the most enigmatic and the ced-7 ortholog previously has not been identified in Drosophila. Homology searches revealed a family of putative ced-7 orthologs that encode transporters of the ABCA family in Drosophila. To determine which of these genes functions similarly to ced-7/ABCA1 in PCD, we analyzed their engulfment function in oogenesis, during which 15 germ cells in each egg chamber undergo programmed cell death and are removed by neighboring phagocytic follicle cells. It has been shown that genetically knocking down individual engulfment genes results in inefficient clearance of the germ cells, which then persist in late-stage egg chambers. Only two of the putative ced-7/ABCA1 genes are expressed significantly in the ovary, CG31731 and CG1718, and we have characterized these genes using transposon insertions, deficiencies, and RNAi knockdowns. Our genetic analysis reveals that CG31731 is necessary for germ cell clearance in the Drosophila ovary. Immunostaining shows that genetically knocking down CG31731 results in uncleared germ cells which persist in late-stage egg chambers. Altogether, our findings suggest that CED-7/ABCA1/CG31731 play evolutionarily conserved roles during engulfment.
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