Role and Regulation of Autophagy During Developmental Cell Death in Drosophila Melanogaster
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Two prominent morphological forms of programmed cell death occur during development, apoptosis and autophagic cell death. Improper regulation of cell death can lead to a variety of diseases, including cancer. Autophagy is required for survival in response to starvation, but has also been associated with cell death. It is unclear how autophagy is regulated under specific cell contexts in multi-cellular organisms, and what may distinguish autophagy function during cell survival versus cell death. Autophagic cell death is characterized by cells that die in synchrony, with autophagic vacuoles in the cytoplasm, and phagocytosis of the dying cells is not observed. However, little is known about this form of cell death. Autophagic cell death is observed during mammalian development, during regression of the corpus luteum and involution of the mammary and prostate glands. Autophagic cell death is also observed during development of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, during larval salivary gland cell death. Drosophila is an excellent genetic model system to study developmental cell death in vivo.
Cells use two main catabolic processes to degrade and recycle cellular contents, the ubiquitin/proteasome system (UPS) and autophagy. Here I investigate the role of the UPS and autophagy in developmental cell death using Drosophila larval salivary glands as an in vivo model. Proteasome inhibitors are being used in anti-cancer therapies; however the cellular effects of proteasome inhibition have not been studied in vivo. Here I demonstrate that the UPS is impaired during developmental cell death in vivo. Taking a proteomics approach to identify proteins enriched in salivary glands during developmental cell death and in response to proteasome impairment, I identify several novel genes required for salivary gland cell death, including Cop9 signalsome subunit 6 and the engulfment receptor Draper. Here I show that the engulfment receptor Draper is required for salivary gland degradation. This is the first example of an engulfment factor that is autonomously required for self-clearance. Surprisingly, I find that Draper is cell-autonomously required for autophagy during cell death, but not for starvation-induced autophagy. Draper is the first factor to be identified that genetically distinguishes autophagy that is associated with cell death from cell survival.