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Dev Biol. 2000 Jan 15;217(2):352-61.

The nudel protease of Drosophila is required for eggshell biogenesis in addition to embryonic patterning.

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Department of Cell Biology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, 06520, USA.


The dorsoventral axis of the Drosophila embryo is defined by a ventral signal that arises within the perivitelline space, an extracellular compartment between the embryo plasma membrane and the vitelline membrane layer of the eggshell. Production of the ventral signal requires four members of the serine protease family, including a large modular protein with a protease domain encoded by the nudel gene. Here we provide evidence that the Nudel protease has an integral role in eggshell biogenesis. Mutations in nudel that disrupt Nudel protease function produce eggs having vitelline membranes that are abnormally permeable to the dye neutral red. Permeability varies among mutant nudel alleles but correlates with levels of Nudel protease catalytic activity and function in embryonic dorsoventral patterning. These mutations also block cross-linking of vitelline membrane proteins that normally occurs upon egg activation, just prior to fertilization. In addition, Nudel protease autoactivation temporally coincides with vitelline membrane cross-linking and can be triggered in mature eggs in vitro by conditions that lead to egg activation. We discuss how the Nudel protease might be involved in both eggshell biogenesis and embryonic patterning.

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