The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 109 - 119 (2011)

Vol 55, Issue 1

Targeted expression of p35 reveals a role for caspases in formation of the adult abdominal cuticle in Drosophila

Developmental Expression Pattern | Published: 21 February 2011

Rachel S. Kester and John R. Nambu*

Department of Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology Graduate Program, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst MA, USA


Programmed cell death is a fundamental aspect of metazoan development associated with the elaboration of disparate tissues and structures. Specialized cysteine proteases, the caspases, are mediators of cell death; once activated they cleave substrate proteins to dismantle doomed cells. Caspase activity is regulated by several cellular and viral inhibitors. The baculovirus p35 protein blocks the action of a wide range of caspases and inhibits cell death in divergent species. Here, we utilize the Gal4/UAS system to target p35 expression and analyze the requirements of caspase activity for development in Drosophila. We confirm that cell death is essential for proper morphogenesis of the adult male external genitalia and distal portions of the legs. In addition, we find that caspases are also required for elimination of larval epidermal cells and normal elaboration of the adult abdominal cuticle by histoblast derivatives. In particular, rescued p35-expressing larval epidermal cells accumulate along the abdominal midline and are associated with corresponding splits in both dorsal and ventral cuticle structures. This study reveals a novel role for cell death in a specific morphogenetic processes.


Drosophila, caspases, p35, cell death, morphogenesis, abdomen

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