The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 21 - 31 (2008)

Vol 52, Issue 1

Drosophila retinal pigment cell death is regulated in a position-dependent manner by a cell memory gene

Original Article | Published: 1 November 2007

Nicolas Dos-Santos1, Thomas Rubin1, Fabienne Chalvet1,2, Pierre Gandille, Frederic Cremazy1, Jacqueline Leroy1, E. Boissonneau and Laurent Théodore

1CNRS - UMR 8159, LGBC, Université de Versailles St Quentin, Versailles and 2Université Paris Sud XI, Orsay cedex, France


The stereotyped organization of the Drosophila compound eye depends on the elimination by apoptosis of about 25% of the inter-ommatidial pigment cell precursors (IOCs) during metamorphosis. This program of cell death is under antagonistic effects of the Notch and the EGFR pathways. In addition, uncharacterized positional cues may underlie death versus survival choices among IOCs. Our results provide new genetic evidences that cell death is regulated in a position- dependent manner in the eye. We show that mutations in Trithorax-like (Trl) and lola-like/batman specifically block IOC death during eye morphogenesis. These genes share characteristics of both Polycomb-Group and trithorax-Group genes, in that they are required for chromatin-mediated repression and activation of Hox genes. However, Trl function in triggering IOC death is independent from a function in repressing Hox gene expression during eye development. Analysis of mosaic ommatidiae containing Trl mutant cells revealed that Trl function for IOC death is required in cone cells. Strikingly, cell death suppression in Trl mutants depends on the position of IOCs. Our results further support a model whereby death of IOCs on the oblique sides of ommatidiae requires Trl-dependent reduction of a survival signal, or an increase of a death signal, emanating from cone cells. Trl does not have the same effect on horizontal IOCs whose survival seems to involve additional topological constraints.


programmed cell death, Drosophila, apoptosis, Polycomb, Notch, Egf receptor

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