Background: The orientation of the mitotic spindle influences the asymmetric distribution of cytoplasmic determinants and the positioning of the sibling cell, and therefore has important influences on cell-fate determination and patterning of the embryo. Both the establishment of an axis of polarity and the adjustment of this axis with respect to the coordinates of the embryo have to be controlled. None of the genes identified so far that are involved in these processes seems to have been conserved between flies and nematodes.
Results: Here, we show that the bazooka gene encodes a protein with three putative protein-interaction motifs known as PDZ domains and is the first Drosophila representative of the par gene family of Caenorhabditis elegans, members of which are required for establishment of anterior-posterior polarity of the nematode embryo. The bazooka RNA and protein were found to be restricted to the apical cortical cytoplasm of epithelial cells and neuroblasts. Embryos that were mutant for bazooka frequently failed to coordinate the axis of cell polarity with that of the embryo. This was manifested as defective spindle orientation and mispositioning of the daughter cell after division.
Conclusions: The Drosophila gene bazooka is likely to be part of a regulatory mechanism required to coordinate the axis of polarity of a cell with that of the embryo. The PDZ domains of Bazooka provide several protein-protein interfaces, which possibly participate in the assembly of a multiprotein complex at the apical pole.