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Development. 1999 Dec;126(24):5645-57.

Drosophila quail, a villin-related protein, bundles actin filaments in apoptotic nurse cells.

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Departments of Genetics and Cell Biology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


Drosophila Quail protein is required for the completion of fast cytoplasm transport from nurse cells to the oocyte, an event critical for the production of viable oocytes. The abundant network of cytoplasmic filamentous actin, established at the onset of fast transport, is absent in quail mutant egg chambers. Previously, we showed that Quail is a germline-specific protein with sequence homology to villin, a vertebrate actin-regulating protein. In this study, we combined biochemical experiments with observations in egg chambers to define more precisely the function of this protein in the regulation of actin-bundle assembly in nurse cells. We report that recombinant Quail can bind and bundle filamentous actin in vitro in a manner similar to villin at a physiological calcium concentration. In contrast to villin, Quail is unable to sever or cap filamentous actin, or to promote nucleation of new actin filaments at a high calcium concentration. Instead, Quail bundles the filaments regardless of the calcium concentration. In vivo, the assembly of nurse-cell actin bundles is accompanied by extensive perforation of the nurse-cell nuclear envelopes, and both of these phenomena are manifestations of nurse-cell apoptosis. To investigate whether free calcium levels are affected during apoptosis, we loaded egg chambers with the calcium indicator Indo-1. Our observations indicate a rise in free calcium in the nurse-cell cytoplasm coincident with the permeabilization of the nuclear envelopes. We also show that human villin expressed in the Drosophila germline could sense elevated cytoplasmic calcium; in nurse cells with reduced levels of Quail protein, villin interfered with actin-bundle stability. We conclude that Quail efficiently assembles actin filaments into bundles in nurse cells and maintains their stability under fluctuating free calcium levels. We also propose a developmental model for the fast phase of cytoplasm transport incorporating findings presented in this study.

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