Background: Drosophila oocyte determination involves a complex process by which a single cell within an interconnected cyst of 16 germline cells differentiates into an oocyte. This process requires the asymmetric accumulation of both specific messenger RNAs and proteins within the future oocyte as well as the proper organization of the microtubule cytoskeleton, which together with the fusome provides polarity within the developing germline cyst.
Results: In addition to its previously described late oogenic role in the establishment of anterior-posterior polarity and subsequent embryonic axis formation, the Drosophila par-1 gene is required very early in the germline for establishing cyst polarity and for oocyte specification. Germline clonal analyses, for which we used a protein null mutation, reveal that Drosophila par-1 (par-1) is required for the asymmetric accumulation of oocyte-specific factors as well as the proper organization of the microtubule cytoskeleton. Similarly, somatic clonal analyses indicate that par-1 is required for microtubule stabilization in follicle cells. The PAR-1 protein is localized to the fusome and ring canals within the developing germline cyst in direct contact with microtubules. Likewise, in the follicular epithelium, PAR-1 colocalizes with microtubules along the basolateral membrane. However, in either case PAR-1 localization is independent of microtubules.
Conclusions: The Drosophila par-1 gene plays at least two essential roles during oogenesis; it is required early in the germline for organization of the microtubule cytoskeleton and subsequent oocyte determination, and it has a second, previously described role late in oogenesis in axis formation. In both cases, par-1 appears to exert its effects through the regulation of microtubule dynamics and/or stability, and this finding is consistent with the defined role of the mammalian PAR-1 homologs.