Apoptosis and autophagic cell death occur during Drosophila development, and recent advances in their mechanisms have been made. As in other organisms, apoptosis is executed by caspases. In living cells, caspases are kept in check through a combination of IAP-binding and proteolytic inhibition. Once a cell commits to apoptosis, phagocytes recognize them through the immuno-receptor-like proteins Draper and Simu, and initiate corpse engulfment. Drosophila research has significantly contributed to the idea that autophagy is required for certain forms of cell death, and that caspase function in autophagic cell death depends on cell context. Surprisingly, the cell corpse engulfment receptor Draper also functions in autophagic cell death. These advances facilitate our understanding of the cell death mechanisms in development and disease.
Autophagy is a process to degrade and recycle cytoplasmic contents. Autophagy is required for survival in response to starvation, but has also been associated with cell death. How autophagy functions during cell survival in some contexts and cell death in others is unknown. Drosophila larval salivary glands undergo programmed cell death requiring autophagy genes, and are cleared in the absence of known phagocytosis. Recently, we demonstrated that Draper (Drpr), the Drosophila homolog of C. elegans engulfment receptor CED-1, is required for autophagy induction during cell death, but not during cell survival. drpr mutants fail to clear salivary glands. drpr knockdown in salivary glands prevents the induction of autophagy, and Atg1 misexpression in drpr null mutants suppresses salivary gland persistence. Surprisingly, drpr knockdown cell-autonomously prevents autophagy induction in dying salivary gland cells, but not in larval fat body cells following starvation. This is the first engulfment factor shown to function in cellular self-clearance, and the first report of a cell-death-specific autophagy regulator.
autophagy; Draper; programmed cell death; engulfment; development
Autophagy degrades cytoplasmic components that are required for cell survival in response to starvation1. Autophagy has also been associated with cell death, but it is unclear what may distinguish autophagy during cell survival and death. Drosophila salivary glands undergo programmed cell death that requires autophagy genes2, and engulfment of salivary gland cells by phagocytes does not appear to occur3. Here we show that Draper (Drpr), the Drosophila orthologue of the C. elegans engulfment receptor CED-1, is required for autophagy during cell death. Null mutations in drpr, as well as salivary gland-specific knockdown of drpr, inhibits salivary gland degradation. drpr knockdown prevents the induction of autophagy in dying salivary glands, and Atg1 expression in drpr mutants suppresses the failure in salivary gland degradation. Surprisingly, drpr is cell-autonomously required for autophagy induction in dying salivary gland cells, while drpr knockdown does not prevent starvation-induced autophagy in the fatbody which is associated with survival. In addition, components of the conserved engulfment pathway are required for clearance of salivary glands. This is the first example of an engulfment factor that is autonomously required for self-clearance. Furthermore, Drpr is the first factor that distinguishes autophagy that is associated with cell death from cell survival.
Macroautophagy (autophagy) is a bulk cytoplasmic degradation process that is conserved from yeast to mammals. Autophagy is an important cellular response to starvation and stress, and plays important roles in development, cell death, aging, immunity, and cancer. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster provides an excellent model system to study autophagy in vivo, in the context of a developing organism. Autophagy (atg) genes and their regulators are conserved in Drosophila, and autophagy is induced in response to nutrient starvation and hormones during development. In this review we provide an overview of how Drosophila research has contributed to our understanding of the role and regulation of autophagy in cell survival, growth, nutrient utilization, and cell death. Recent Drosophila research has also provided important mechanistic information about the role of autophagy in protein aggregation disorders, neurodegeneration, aging, and innate immunity. Differences in the role of autophagy in specific contexts and/or cell types suggest that there may be cell-context-specific regulators of autophagy, and studies in Drosophila are well-suited to yield discoveries about this specificity.
Programmmed necrosis is a form of cell death that involves membrane compartment swelling, cell rupture and an immune response. Although long recognized as a normal component of animal development, programmed necrosis remains poorly understood. Recent studies identify MLKL and PGAM5 as factors downstream of the protein kinases RIP1 and RIP3 in programmed necrosis.
Cell growth arrest and autophagy are required for autophagic cell death in Drosophila. Maintenance of growth by expression of either activated Ras, Dp110, or Akt is sufficient to inhibit autophagy and cell death in fly salivary glands, but the mechanism that controls growth arrest is unknown. While the Warts (Wts) tumor-suppressor has emerged as a critical regulator of tissue growth in animals, it is not clear how this signaling pathway controls cell growth.
Here we show that genes in the Wts pathway are required for salivary gland degradation, and that wts mutants have defects in cell growth arrest, caspase activity, and autophagy. Expression of Atg1, a regulator of autophagy, in salivary glands is sufficient to rescue wts mutant salivary gland destruction. Surprisingly, expression of Yorkie (Yki) and Scalloped (Sd) in salivary glands fails to phenocopy wts mutants. By contrast, mis-expression of the Yki target microRNA bantam was able to inhibit salivary gland cell death, even though mutations in bantam fail to suppress the wts mutant salivary gland persistence phenotype. Significantly, wts mutant salivary glands possess altered phosphoinositide signaling and phospho-Akt localization, and decreased function of the class I PI3K pathway genes chico and TOR suppressed wts defects in autophagic cell death.
These data provide the first evidence that the Wts tumor-suppressor pathway regulates autophagy and autophagic cell death. Our data suggest that the previously described Wts pathway involving Yki, Sd, and bantam fails to function in salivary glands, and that Wts regulates salivary gland cell death in a PI3K-dependent manner involving Chico and TOR.
autophagy; cell death; apoptosis; growth; Drosophila; development
Significant progress has been made over recent years in defining the normal progression and regulation of autophagy, particularly in cultured mammalian cells and yeast model systems. However, apart from a few notable exceptions, our understanding of the physiological roles of autophagy has lagged behind these advances, and identification of components and features of autophagy unique to higher eukaryotes also remains a challenge. In this review we describe recent insights into the roles and control mechanisms of autophagy gained from in vivo studies in Drosophila. We focus on potential roles of autophagy in controlling cell growth and death, and describe how the regulation of autophagy has evolved to include metazoan-specific signaling pathways. We discuss genetic screening approaches that are being used to identify novel regulators and effectors of autophagy, and speculate about areas of research in this system likely to bear fruit in future studies.
autophagy; Drosophila; apoptosis; target of rapamycin (TOR); cell growth; neurodegeneration
The study of autophagy is rapidly expanding, and our knowledge of the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. The vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. In fact, it is difficult for readers—even those who work in the field—to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors and chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, and the roles of accessory components and structures that are associated with autophagy.
autophagy; lysosome; mitophagy; pexophagy; stress; vacuole
Autophagy is a catabolic process that is negatively regulated by growth and has been implicated in cell death. We find that autophagy is induced following growth arrest, and precedes developmental autophagic cell death of Drosophila salivary glands. Maintaining growth by expression of either activated Ras or positive regulators of the class I phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway inhibits autophagy and blocks salivary gland cell degradation. Developmental degradation of salivary glands is also inhibited in autophagy gene (atg) mutants. Caspases are active in PI3K-expressing and atg mutant salivary glands, and combined inhibition of both autophagy and caspases increases suppression of gland degradation. Further, induction of autophagy is sufficient to induce premature cell death in a caspase-independent manner. Our results provide in vivo evidence that growth arrest, autophagy, and atg genes are required for physiological autophagic cell death, and that multiple degradation pathways cooperate in the efficient clearance of cells during development.
autophagy; cell death; apoptosis; growth; Drosophila; development
Blocking autophagy protects the apoptosis inhibitor dBruce from destruction and promotes nurse cell survival in developing egg chambers.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved pathway responsible for degradation of cytoplasmic material via the lysosome. Although autophagy has been reported to contribute to cell death, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. In this study, we show that autophagy controls DNA fragmentation during late oogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster. Inhibition of autophagy by genetically removing the function of the autophagy genes atg1, atg13, and vps34 resulted in late stage egg chambers that contained persisting nurse cell nuclei without fragmented DNA and attenuation of caspase-3 cleavage. The Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) dBruce was found to colocalize with the autophagic marker GFP-Atg8a and accumulated in autophagy mutants. Nurse cells lacking Atg1 or Vps34 in addition to dBruce contained persisting nurse cell nuclei with fragmented DNA. This indicates that autophagic degradation of dBruce controls DNA fragmentation in nurse cells. Our results reveal autophagic degradation of an IAP as a novel mechanism of triggering cell death and thereby provide a mechanistic link between autophagy and cell death.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process to catabolize cytoplasmic proteins and organelles1, 2. During starvation, the target of rapamycin (TOR), a nutrient-responsive kinase, is inhibited, thereby inducing autophagy. In autophagy, double-membrane autophagosomes envelop and sequester intracellular components and then fuse with lysosomes to form autolysosomes which degrade their contents to regenerate nutrients. Current models of autophagy terminate with the degradation of autophagosome cargo in autolysosomes3-5, but the regulation of autophagy in response to nutrients and the subsequent fate of the autolysosome are poorly defined. Here we show that mTOR signaling is inhibited during autophagy initiation, but reactivated with prolonged starvation. mTOR reactivation is autophagy-dependent, and requires the degradation of autolysosomal products. Increased mTOR activity attenuates autophagy and generates proto-lysosomal tubules and vesicles that extrude from autolysosomes and ultimately mature into functional lysosomes, thereby restoring the full complement of lysosomes in the cell – a process we identify in multiple animal species. Thus, an evolutionarily-conserved cycle in autophagy governs nutrient sensing and lysosome homeostasis during starvation.
Most developmentally programmed cell death in metazoans is mediated by caspases. During Drosophila metamorphosis obsolete tissues, including the midgut and salivary glands, are removed by programmed cell death . The initiator caspase Dronc and its activator Ark are required for the death of salivary glands, but not for midgut removal [2, 3]. In addition to caspases, complete removal of salivary glands requires autophagy . However, the contribution of autophagy to midgut cell death has not been explored. Examination of combined mutants of the main initiator and effector caspases revealed that the canonical apoptotic pathway is not required for midgut cell death. Further analyses revealed that the caspase Decay is responsible for most of the caspase activity in dying midguts, yet inhibition of this activity has no effect on midgut removal. By contrast, midgut degradation was severely delayed by inhibition of autophagy, and this occurred without a decrease in caspase activity. Surprisingly, the combined inhibition of caspases and autophagy did not result in an additional delay in midgut removal. Together, our results indicate that autophagy, not caspases, is essential for midgut programmed cell death, providing the first in vivo evidence of caspase-independent programmed cell death that requires autophagy, despite the presence of high caspase activity.
While most programmed cell death (PCD) in animal development is reliant upon the caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway and subsequent cleavage of caspase substrates, we found that PCD in Drosophila larval midgut occurs normally in the absence of the main components of the apoptotic machinery. However, when some of the components of the autophagic machinery were disrupted, midgut destruction was severely delayed. These studies demonstrate that Drosophila midgut PCD is executed by a novel mechanism where caspases are apparently dispensable, but that requires autophagy.
apoptosis; caspases; programmed cell death; metamorphosis; decay
Cellular determinants of the germline selectively accumulate in germ cell precursors and influence cell fate during early development in many organisms. Zhang et al. (2009) now report that targeted autophagy mediated by the SEPA-1 protein depletes germplasm proteins from somatic cells during early development of the nematode.
Autophagic cell death is a prominent morphological form of cell death that occurs in diverse animals. Autophagosomes are abundant during autophagic cell death, yet the functional role of autophagy in cell death has been enigmatic. We find that autophagy and the Atg genes are required for autophagic cell death of Drosophila salivary glands. Although caspases are present in dying salivary glands, autophagy is required for complete cell degradation. Further, induction of high levels of autophagy results in caspase-independent autophagic cell death. Our results provide the first in vivo evidence that autophagy and the Atg genes are required for autophagic cell death and confirm that autophagic cell death is a physiological death program that occurs during development.
autophagy; cell death; Atg; caspase; Drosophila
Research in autophagy continues to accelerate,1 and as a result many new scientists are entering the field. Accordingly, it is important to establish a standard set of criteria for monitoring macroautophagy in different organisms. Recent reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose.2,3 There are many useful and convenient methods that can be used to monitor macroautophagy in yeast, but relatively few in other model systems, and there is much confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure macroautophagy in higher eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers of autophagosomes versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway; thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from fully functional autophagy that includes delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of the methods that can be used by investigators who are attempting to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as by reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that investigate these processes. This set of guidelines is not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to verify an autophagic response.
autolysosome; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole
Degradation of cytoplasmic components by autophagy requires the class III phosphatidylinositol 3 (PI(3))–kinase Vps34, but the mechanisms by which this kinase and its lipid product PI(3) phosphate (PI(3)P) promote autophagy are unclear. In mammalian cells, Vps34, with the proautophagic tumor suppressors Beclin1/Atg6, Bif-1, and UVRAG, forms a multiprotein complex that initiates autophagosome formation. Distinct Vps34 complexes also regulate endocytic processes that are critical for late-stage autophagosome-lysosome fusion. In contrast, Vps34 may also transduce activating nutrient signals to mammalian target of rapamycin (TOR), a negative regulator of autophagy. To determine potential in vivo functions of Vps34, we generated mutations in the single Drosophila melanogaster Vps34 orthologue, causing cell-autonomous disruption of autophagosome/autolysosome formation in larval fat body cells. Endocytosis is also disrupted in Vps34−/− animals, but we demonstrate that this does not account for their autophagy defect. Unexpectedly, TOR signaling is unaffected in Vps34 mutants, indicating that Vps34 does not act upstream of TOR in this system. Instead, we show that TOR/Atg1 signaling regulates the starvation-induced recruitment of PI(3)P to nascent autophagosomes. Our results suggest that Vps34 is regulated by TOR-dependent nutrient signals directly at sites of autophagosome formation.
The increasing complexity of genomic data presents several challenges for biologists. Limited computer monitor views of data complexity and the dynamic nature of data in the midst of discovery increase the challenge of integrating experimental results with information resources. The use of Gene Ontology enables researchers to summarize results of quantitative analyses in this framework, but the limitations of typical browser presentation restrict data access.
Here we describe extensions to the treemap design to visualize and query genome data. Treemaps are a space-filling visualization technique for hierarchical structures that show attributes of leaf nodes by size and color-coding. Treemaps enable users to rapidly compare sizes of nodes and sub-trees, and we use Gene Ontology categories, levels of RNA, and other quantitative attributes of DNA microarray experiments as examples. Our implementation of treemaps, Treemap 4.0, allows user-defined filtering to focus on the data of greatest interest, and these queried files can be exported for secondary analyses. Links to model system web pages from Treemap 4.0 enable users access to details about specific genes without leaving the query platform.
Treemaps allow users to view and query the data from an experiment on a single computer monitor screen. Treemap 4.0 can be used to visualize various genome data, and is particularly useful for revealing patterns and details within complex data sets.
The steroid hormone ecdysone regulates both cell differentiation and cell death during insect metamorphosis, by hierarchical transcriptional regulation of a number of genes, including the Broad-Complex (BR-C), the zinc finger family of transcription factors. These genes in turn regulate the transcription of a number of downstream genes. DRONC, a key apical caspase in Drosophila, is the only known caspase that is transcriptionally regulated by ecdysone during development. We demonstrate that dronc gene expression is ablated or reduced in BR-C mutant flies. Using RNA interference in an ecdysone-responsive Drosophila cell line, we show that DRONC is essential for ecdysone-mediated cell death, and that dronc upregulation in these cells is controlled by BR-C. Finally, we show that the dronc promoter has BR-C interaction sites, and that it can be transactivated by a specific isoform of BR-C. These results indicate that BR-C plays a key role in ecdysone-mediated caspase regulation.
hormone; apoptosis; BR-C; RNAi; transcription