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Genetics. Mar 1999; 151(3): 1065–1079.
PMCID: PMC1460532

Genetic analysis of viable Hsp90 alleles reveals a critical role in Drosophila spermatogenesis.


The Hsp90 chaperone protein maintains the activities of a remarkable variety of signal transducers, but its most critical functions in the context of the whole organism are unknown. Point mutations of Hsp83 (the Drosophila Hsp90 gene) obtained in two different screens are lethal as homozygotes. We report that eight transheterozygous mutant combinations produce viable adults. All exhibit the same developmental defects: sterile males and sterile or weakly fertile females. We also report that scratch, a previously identified male-sterile mutation, is an allele of Hsp82 with a P-element insertion in the intron that reduces expression. Thus, it is a simple reduction in Hsp90 function, rather than possible altered functions in the point mutants, that leads to male sterility. As shown by light and electron microscopy, all stages of spermatogenesis involving microtubule function are affected, from early mitotic divisions to later stages of sperm maturation, individualization, and motility. Aberrant microtubules are prominent in yeast cells carrying mutations in HSP82 (the yeast Hsp90 gene), confirming that Hsp90 function is connected to microtubule dynamics and that this connection is highly conserved. A small fraction of Hsp90 copurifies with taxol-stabilized microtubule proteins in Drosophila embryo extracts, but Hsp90 does not remain associated with microtubules through repeated temperature-induced assembly and disassembly reactions. If the spermatogenesis phenotypes are due to defects in microtubule dynamics, we suggest these are indirect, reflecting a role for Hsp90 in maintaining critical signal transduction pathways and microtubule effectors, rather than a direct role in the assembly and disassembly of microtubules themselves.

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