The Inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) antagonists Reaper (Rpr), Grim and Hid are central regulators of developmental apoptosis in Drosophila. Ectopic expression of each is sufficient to trigger apoptosis, and hid and rpr have been shown to be important for programmed cell death (PCD). To investigate the role for grim in PCD, a grim null mutant was generated. grim was not a key proapoptotic gene for embryonic PCD, confirming that grim cooperates with rpr and hid in embryogenesis. In contrast, PCD of glial cells in the microchaete lineage required grim, identifying a death process dependent upon endogenous grim. Grim associates with mitochondria and has been shown to activate a mitochondrial death pathway distinct from IAP antagonization; therefore, the Drosophila bcl-2 genes buffy and debcl were investigated for genetic interaction with grim. Loss of buffy led to microchaete glial cell survival and suppressed death in the eye induced by ectopic Grim. This is the first example of a developmental PCD process influenced by buffy, and places buffy in a proapoptotic role. PCD of microchaete glial cells represents an exceptional opportunity to study the mitochondrial proapoptotic process induced by Grim.
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