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Dev Biol. 2018 Apr 1;436(1):28-41. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.02.004. Epub 2018 Feb 12.

Cell death in neural precursor cells and neurons before neurite formation prevents the emergence of abnormal neural structures in the Drosophila optic lobe.

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Developmental Biology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan; Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Japan. Electronic address:
Developmental Biology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan.


Programmed cell death is a conserved strategy for neural development both in vertebrates and invertebrates and is recognized at various developmental stages in the brain from neurogenesis to adulthood. To understand the development of the central nervous system, it is essential to reveal not only molecular mechanisms but also the role of neural cell death (Pinto-Teixeira et al., 2016). To understand the role of cell death in neural development, we investigated the effect of inhibition of cell death on optic lobe development. Our data demonstrate that, in the optic lobe of Drosophila, cell death occurs in neural precursor cells and neurons before neurite formation and functions to prevent various developmental abnormalities. When neuronal cell death was inhibited by an effector caspase inhibitor, p35, multiple abnormal neuropil structures arose during optic lobe development-e.g., enlarged or fused neuropils, misrouted neurons and abnormal neurite lumps. Inhibition of cell death also induced morphogenetic defects in the lamina and medulla development-e.g., failures in the separation of the lamina and medulla cortices and the medulla rotation. These defects were reproduced in the mutant of an initiator caspase, dronc. If cell death was a mechanism for removing the abnormal neuropil structures, we would also expect to observe them in mutants defective for corpse clearance. However, they were not observed in these mutants. When dead cell-membranes were visualized with Apoliner, they were observed only in cortices and not in neuropils. These results suggest that the cell death occurs before mature neurite formation. Moreover, we found that inhibition of cell death induced ectopic neuroepithelial cells, neuroblasts and ganglion mother cells in late pupal stages, at sites where the outer and inner proliferation centers were located at earlier developmental stages. Caspase-3 activation was observed in the neuroepithelial cells and neuroblasts in the proliferation centers. These results indicate that cell death is required for elimination of the precursor cells composing the proliferation centers. This study substantiates an essential role of early neural cell death for ensuring normal development of the central nervous system.


Apoptosis; Caspase; Cell death; Drosophila; Neural development; Neuroblast; Neuroepithelial cell; Optic lobe; Proliferation center; dronc

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