Apoptosis in Drosophila: Compensatory Proliferation and Undead Cells

Int J Dev Biol. 2009;53(8-10):1341-7. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072447fm.


Apoptosis (programmed cell death) is a conserved process in all animals, used to eliminate damaged or unwanted cells after stress events or during normal development to sculpt larval or adult structures. In Drosophila, it is known that stress events such as irradiation or heat shock give rise to high apoptotic levels which remove more than 50% of cells in imaginal discs. However, the surviving cells are able to restore normal size and pattern, indicating that they undergo additional proliferation. This compensatory proliferation is still poorly understood. One widely used method to study the properties of apoptotic cells is to keep them alive by expressing in them the baculoviral protein P35, which blocks the activity of the effector caspases. These "undead" cells acquire special features, such as the emission of the growth signals Dpp and Wg, changes in cellular morphology and induction of proliferation in neighbouring cells. Here, we review the various methods used in Drosophila to block apoptosis and its consequences, and focus on the generation and properties of undead cells in the wing imaginal disc. We describe their effects in epithelial architecture and growth in some detail, and discuss the possible relationship between undead cells and compensatory proliferation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / physiology
  • Wnt1 Protein / genetics
  • Wnt1 Protein / physiology


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Wnt1 Protein
  • dpp protein, Drosophila
  • wg protein, Drosophila
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases