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J Cell Biol. 2007 Mar 12;176(6):843-52. Epub 2007 Mar 5.

Fork head controls the timing and tissue selectivity of steroid-induced developmental cell death.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.


Cell death during Drosophila melanogaster metamorphosis is controlled by the steroid hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E). Elements of the signaling pathway that triggers death are known, but it is not known why some tissues, and not others, die in response to a particular hormone pulse. We found that loss of the tissue-specific transcription factor Fork head (Fkh) is both required and sufficient to specify a death response to 20E in the larval salivary glands. Loss of fkh itself is a steroid-controlled event that is mediated by the 20E-induced BR-C gene, and that renders the key death regulators hid and reaper hormone responsive. These results implicate the D. melanogaster FOXA orthologue Fkh with a novel function as a competence factor for steroid-controlled cell death. They explain how a specific tissue is singled out for death, and why this tissue survives earlier hormone pulses. More generally, they suggest that cell identity factors like Fkh play a pivotal role in the normal control of developmental cell death.

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