E2F and p53 induce apoptosis independently during Drosophila development but intersect in the context of DNA damage

PLoS Genet. 2008 Aug 8;4(8):e1000153. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000153.


In mammalian cells, RB/E2F and p53 are intimately connected, and crosstalk between these pathways is critical for the induction of cell cycle arrest or cell death in response to cellular stresses. Here we have investigated the genetic interactions between RBF/E2F and p53 pathways during Drosophila development. Unexpectedly, we find that the pro-apoptotic activities of E2F and p53 are independent of one another when examined in the context of Drosophila development: apoptosis induced by the deregulation of dE2F1, or by the overexpression of dE2F1, is unaffected by the elimination of dp53; conversely, dp53-induced phenotypes are unaffected by the elimination of dE2F activity. However, dE2F and dp53 converge in the context of a DNA damage response. Both dE2F1/dDP and dp53 are required for DNA damage-induced cell death, and the analysis of rbf1 mutant eye discs indicates that dE2F1/dDP and dp53 cooperatively promote cell death in irradiated discs. In this context, the further deregulation in the expression of pro-apoptotic genes generates an additional sensitivity to apoptosis that requires both dE2F/dDP and dp53 activity. This sensitivity differs from DNA damage-induced apoptosis in wild-type discs (and from dE2F/dDP-induced apoptosis in un-irradiated rbf1 mutant eye discs) by being dependent on both hid and reaper. These results show that pro-apoptotic activities of dE2F1 and dp53 are surprisingly separable: dp53 is required for dE2F-dependent apoptosis in the response to DNA damage, but it is not required for dE2F-dependent apoptosis caused simply by the inactivation of rbf1.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development*
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • E2F Transcription Factors / genetics
  • E2F Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Male
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • E2f1 protein, Drosophila
  • Rbf protein, Drosophila
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • p53 protein, Drosophila