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PLoS Genet. 2014 Mar 27;10(3):e1004220. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004220. eCollection 2014 Mar.

Dying cells protect survivors from radiation-induced cell death in Drosophila.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America.


We report a phenomenon wherein induction of cell death by a variety of means in wing imaginal discs of Drosophila larvae resulted in the activation of an anti-apoptotic microRNA, bantam. Cells in the vicinity of dying cells also become harder to kill by ionizing radiation (IR)-induced apoptosis. Both ban activation and increased protection from IR required receptor tyrosine kinase Tie, which we identified in a genetic screen for modifiers of ban. tie mutants were hypersensitive to radiation, and radiation sensitivity of tie mutants was rescued by increased ban gene dosage. We propose that dying cells activate ban in surviving cells through Tie to make the latter cells harder to kill, thereby preserving tissues and ensuring organism survival. The protective effect we report differs from classical radiation bystander effect in which neighbors of irradiated cells become more prone to death. The protective effect also differs from the previously described effect of dying cells that results in proliferation of nearby cells in Drosophila larval discs. If conserved in mammals, a phenomenon in which dying cells make the rest harder to kill by IR could have implications for treatments that involve the sequential use of cytotoxic agents and radiation therapy.

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