Spectrosomes and fusomes anchor mitotic spindles during asymmetric germ cell divisions and facilitate the formation of a polarized microtubule array for oocyte specification in Drosophila

Dev Biol. 1997 Sep 1;189(1):79-94. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1997.8669.


In the Drosophila ovary, membrane skeletal proteins such as the adducin-like Hts protein(s), spectrin, and ankyrin are found in the spectrosome, an organelle in germline stem cells (GSC) and their differentiated daughter cells (cystoblasts). These proteins are also components of the fusome, a cytoplasmic structure that spans the cystoblast's progeny that develop to form a germline cyst consisting of 15 nurse cells and an oocyte. Spectrosomes and fusomes are associated with one pole of spindles during mitosis and are implicated in cyst formation and oocyte differentiation. Here we show that the asymmetric behavior of the spectrosome persists throughout the cell cycle of GSC. Eliminating the spectrosome by the htsl mutation leads to randomized spindle orientation, suggesting that the spectrosome anchors the spindle to ensure the asymmetry of GSC division; eliminating the fusome in developing cysts results in defective spindles and randomized spindle orientation as well as asynchronous and reduced cystocyte divisions. These observations suggest that fusomes are required for the proper formation and asymmetric orientation of mitotic spindles. Moreover, they reinforce the notion that fusomes are required for the four synchronous divisions of the cystoblast leading to cyst formation. In htsl cysts which lack fusomes and fail to incorporate a hts gene product(s) into ring canals following cyst formation, polarized microtubule networks do not form, the dynamics of cytoplasmic dynein is disrupted, and oskar and orb RNAs fail to be transported to the future oocyte. These observations support the proposed role of fusomes and ring canals in organizing a polarized microtubule-based transport system for RNA localization that leads to oocyte differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • Oocytes / physiology*
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*