Local caspase activity directs engulfment of dendrites during pruning

Nat Neurosci. 2006 Oct;9(10):1234-6. doi: 10.1038/nn1774. Epub 2006 Sep 17.


Pruning is important for sculpting neural circuits, as it removes excessive or inaccurate projections. Here we show that the removal of sensory neuron dendrites during pruning in Drosophila melanogaster is directed by local caspase activity. Suppressing caspase activity prevented dendrite removal, whereas a global activation of caspases within a neuron caused cell death. A new genetically encoded caspase probe revealed that caspase activity is confined to the degenerating dendrites of pruning neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspases / genetics
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / enzymology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Time Factors


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Caspases