Heterotrimeric G proteins regulate daughter cell size asymmetry in Drosophila neuroblast divisions

Curr Biol. 2003 May 27;13(11):947-54. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(03)00334-8.


Cell division often generates unequally sized daughter cells by off-center cleavages, which are due to either displacement of mitotic spindles or their asymmetry. Drosophila neuroblasts predominantly use the latter mechanism to divide into a large apical neuroblast and a small basal ganglion mother cell (GMC), where the neural fate determinants segregate. Apically localized components regulate both the spindle asymmetry and the localization of the determinants. Here, we show that asymmetric spindle formation depends on signaling mediated by the G beta subunit of heterotrimeric G proteins. G beta 13F distributes throughout the neuroblast cortex. Its lack induces a large symmetric spindle and causes division into nearly equal-sized cells with normal segregation of the determinants. In contrast, elevated G beta 13F activity generates a small spindle, suggesting that this factor suppresses spindle development. Depletion of the apical components also results in the formation of a small symmetric spindle at metaphase. Therefore, the apical components and G beta 13F affect the mitotic spindle shape oppositely. We propose that differential activation of G beta signaling biases spindle development within neuroblasts and thereby causes asymmetric spindles. Furthermore, the multiple equal cleavages of G beta mutant neuroblasts accompany neural defects; this finding suggests indispensable roles of eccentric division in assuring the stem cell properties of neuroblasts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • RNA Interference
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology


  • GTP-Binding Proteins