Cell death during Drosophila melanogaster early oogenesis is mediated through autophagy

Autophagy. 2009 Apr;5(3):298-302. doi: 10.4161/auto.5.3.7454. Epub 2009 Apr 19.


Autophagy is a physiological and evolutionarily conserved process maintaining homeostatic functions, such as protein degradation and organelle turnover. Accumulating data provide evidence that autophagy also contributes to cell death under certain circumstances, but how this is achieved is not well known. Herein, we report that autophagy occurs during developmentally-induced cell death in the female germline, observed in the germarium and during middle developmental stages of oogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster. Degenerating germline cells exhibit caspase activation, chromatin condensation, DNA fragmentation and punctate staining of mCherry-DrAtg8a, a novel marker for monitoring autophagy in Drosophila. Genetic inhibition of autophagy, by removing atg1 or atg7 function, results in significant reduction of DNA fragmentation, suggesting that autophagy acts genetically upstream of DNA fragmentation in this tissue. This study provides new insights into the mechanisms that regulate cell death in vivo during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7
  • Autophagy-Related Protein-1 Homolog
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Developmental Biology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Germ Cells / chemistry
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Genetic
  • Oogenesis / genetics
  • Oogenesis / physiology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics


  • Atg7 protein, Drosophila
  • Chromatin
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Atg1 protein, Drosophila
  • Autophagy-Related Protein-1 Homolog
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Caspases
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7